Regardless of your thoughts about the new administration, one of the hallmarks of this administration’s legislative agenda is significant tax reform. And one of the campaign promises? Eliminate estate taxes. Well, many people think, if there is no estate tax, there is no need to plan!
As recent Forbes article by Lindsay Garland, “Do You Still Need An Estate Plan If There Is No Estate Tax?“outlines, this line of thinking is simply not true. Frankly, for almost every client I see in my practice, planning to avoid estate tax is not a critical or crucial issue, in light of the threshold for estates to be taxed. This threshold is well beyond the assets of many people. Thus, estate planning really isn’t about taxes. What estate planning is about is putting a road map in front of your friends and family so that if you are unable to speak for yourself, in case or disability or death, that the road map is clear and allows your wishes to be carried out to the extent allowable by law.
Maybe you are most certain about where you want to live during incapacity (home or facility); maybe you are most certain about how your possessions should be distributed; or maybe you are most concerned about taking care of those you leave behind who may not be able to care for themselves (young children or elderly relatives). Regardless of your concern, the best way to address those concerns is through estate planning, that you re-visit as your needs change and develop. So many people think if they have an estate plan done once, they never have to do it again. That type of thinking leads to so many problems. I encourage my clients to revisit me in regular intervals after we draft their plans (1 year, 5 years and 7 years) and these “update visits” are always free of charge to the clients. We discuss any changes in their lives, look at the documents we drafted and they signed, and make sure no changes are needed. If no changes are needed, my clients leave the meeting knowing that the plan they have works for the live they have. And I get to visit and be up-to-date on my clients’ ever-changing life situation. It is a win-win for all of us! And, most importantly, it makes sure that my clients know what their plan does and doesn’t do for them, and they feel empowered to know that their attorney is there with them through all the ups and downs life brings us.
So the times are changing, but our plan does not. Because a plan is only as good as those who see it through. And at my law firm, we take great pride in making sure we are with our clients as we see their estate plans through.