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The Planning Process: Estate Planning

Estate Planning

When you think of estate planning, what comes to mind? The inevitable part of the life-cycle that no one likes to contemplate.

Maybe we need to change how we think about estate planning. The goal, generally, is to provide for your heirs and favorite charities. It’s about how your hard work and accumulated wealth can be put to use according to your wishes.

For many people, getting organized is also a goal - so that they don’t leave a financial and legal mess behind for others to deal with. It’s also about making sure that your executor, your spouse, your attorney-in –fact know what your end of life wishes are. End-of-life decisions are best made by you with clarity and forethought.

Estate taxes can diminish your wealth. Make no mistake about it. It’s up to you, and us and a great estate planning attorney to make sure your wealth goes where you want it. We will walk you through the essential elements of good estate planning.  

  • Will and trust design strategies
  • Property ownership alternatives – we’ll review the titling of your property so it’s consistent with your overall plan
  • Beneficiary review – an often overlooked step that makes sure the money goes where you want
  • Estate Tax reduction strategies
  • Insurance audit
  • Qualified plan distribution alternatives
  • Employee stock option optimization
  • Family gifting strategies
  • Charitable planning

It's a certainty that the tax laws will be tweaked, tinkered with, reformed, overhauled and in general changed every few years. Permanent in the eyes of Congress and state legislatures means temporary. Our governments are going to be looking for ways to increase the revenue they exact from people who’ve worked hard to earn it, save it and invest it. We’ll help you reduce that – legally, of course.

Current estate tax rates and exclusions:


Top Rate

Estate Exclusion

Gift Exclusion

Annual Gift

2016 40% $5.45 million $5.45 million $14,000

Portability of Estate Tax Exemption

The 2010 Tax Act allows portability of a decedent’s unused estate tax exemption to the decedent’s surviving spouse. Portability has been made “permanent” under the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA).

Tax Basis

Under current law, the basis of inherited property is “stepped-up” or increased to its fair market valued as of the date of the decedent’s death. If you inherit property and later sell it, you are not liable for tax on the gain on the appreciation occurring up to the date of the decedent’s death.

Be aware that basis step-up is one of the items on the Obama Administration's (and candidate Clinton's) revenue raising targets list. Should another Democratic Administration come to power, it is likely to stay in the cross-hairs of the tax collectors.