“The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.”
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Back to Basics – Estate Planning Part III
Recently we discussed four reasons most families will benefit from estate planning. This post concludes this topic with two more ways an estate plan can help carry out your goals for your family. With the federal estate tax exemption amount now set at $5.25 million for 2013 and $5.34 million for 2014, and increasing annually with inflation, it may seem like estate planning is no longer important. While it is true that most estates will escape this tax, (the estate tax will affect less than 0.2% of decedents over the next decade) there remain many critical issues that most families want to address in an estate plan once they become aware of them. These issues do not depend on your age or level of wealth, but they will make your survivors wish you had bothered to prepare a written estate plan! If you have no will or trust, you still have an estate plan – it is the set of default rules that will impact your estate after your death. If you desire to change any of the default results, then you need a written estate plan. The issues that seem to matter most to the majority of our estate planning clients include: 1. Surety Bond. If you have no will in which you waive surety on your executor’s bond, that expense alone can run into thousands of dollars per year for as long as your estate remains open. 2. State Estate Tax. Many states impose estate tax at lower levels of wealth than the federal statute. In Illinois, an estate will be subject to tax on assets exceeding $4 million. If you own property in states outside Illinois, also check their state estate or inheritance tax laws, and then review any existing will or trust document you may have, especially if it was drafted more than a few years ago. The document probably contains a formula for funding a marital trust or a family trust (a/k/a “credit shelter trust”), that may not suit your current needs, as it was assuming a much lower estate tax exemption amount when it was drafted. In a federally non-taxable estate valued at $5.25 million, the Illinois estate tax cost can be as high as $357,000.00. These issues are not all-inclusive of the reasons your family may greatly benefit from a written estate plan. If you are in a financial situation that puts your estate at risk of paying estate tax, that issue must be carefully addressed to take full advantage of two exemptions for a married couple, and can incorporate other estate tax saving measures. Whether you have an old estate plan that should be reviewed, or whether you are starting from scratch, we would be happy to discuss your needs and propose an estate plan that will accomplish your goals. For more information, feel free to contact Patricia Kraft, Timothy Murtaugh or John Egan.
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