11 Things to Consider When Examining Your Estate Plan

With the current estate tax exemption at $5,340,000 per person and a married couple’s tax exemptions at $10,680,000 due to spousal portability, many clients will not be subject to Federal estate tax obligations. However that does not mean proper estate planning can be ignored. Here are 11 tips to consider as you examine your own estate plan:

State estate taxes differ from state to state. 18 states have some form  of a “death or transfer tax” including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Some states have exemptions significantly less than the Federal exemption, and most are not portable. Have you taken into consideration your state’s estate tax laws?

Probate can be costly and can add complications depending on one’s state of residence. However, if planned properly, probate can be eliminated. Have you properly considered probate?

• Have inherited assets been properly protected from unintentional use? Have beneficiary designations and trusts been properly worded to protect against creditors and unintended consequences?

• Is your family’s inherited asset tax basis step up plan maximized? While even non-taxable estates receive the “at death stepped up value of assets” benefit, planning is necessary to make sure the right assets get stepped up and who gets them.

Life insurance previously owned for estate tax reasons can be refocused towards other risk protection needs or to fund other life goals in the most tax efficient manner possible. Have you considered refocusing?

IRA and other retirement plans can have significant implications beyond the life of the client. With the recent rulings regarding the lack of bankruptcy protection for inherited IRA’s, have you considered naming specially designed trusts as beneficiaries to provide both stretch and protection benefits?

• For non-taxable estates, the key issues are how your legacy will impact the lives of future generations and how to protect and insure that the estate’s financial legacy will not adversely impact others. What are your key issues?

• When designing plans for non-taxable estates, it is important to balance charitable desires with family legacy issues. Do you feel your plan is balanced?

• Are beneficiary designations coordinated and consistent with your desires?

• Have you taken into consideration disability and health care needs? Are they a part of your total estate plan?

• Are you below the threshold of estate taxes? You still need to be sure you have planned how your financial legacy will impact others for years to come.

Are you planning to revise your estate plan in 2015? Call Andy Bass at 248.827.1800 or e-mail Andy at Andrew.Bass@telemuscapital.com to design the best strategy for you!