How prophetic. Recently while driving my car to a meeting, I was listening to a news radio station discuss the current administration’s long term goals to raise all sorts of taxes. I quickly got bored (or maybe demoralized), so I hit the next button on my dial only to find my favorite rock station playing that witty Beatles song, written by George Harrison in 1966, entitled “Taxman.”
The lyrics are humorous, but for our clients a healthy dose of reality about the American tax system: that even upon your death the government can levy a substantial and confiscatory tax.
A TIME OF UNCERTAINTY
Trust & Estate lawyers have been keenly aware that many of former President Bush’s estate tax policies from 2001 may be coming within the crosshairs of the Obama administration. Rumors abound (and maybe they are just that) that popular estate planning strategies, such as split interest trusts (GRATs & Qualified Personal Residence Trusts, just to name a few) may either be substantially curtailed or be facing the guillotine. The laws enacted in 2001 provided for our current $3.5 million dollar estate exemption which is due to expire next year and then (if no further Congressional action is taken) in 2011, to revert back to a $1 million dollar exemption. Most clients remain skeptical about the prospects of any estate tax repeal.
So what is a client to do? For many, their estate plans need to be reevaluated at least every few years to review the strategies implemented, address tax law changes, and discuss the application of new strategies that are always emerging. Lawyers also need to be kept abreast of family dynamics that are never stationary. A greater effort is also needed to expunge from our clients’ thinking the notion of insurance planning as a dirty word. Just like driving a car at 75 miles per hour requires a seat belt, most sophisticated estate tax planning strategies also require a hedge if planning does not entirely work out as initially planned.
Inherited assets for the next generation will also need to be protected from creditors and divorce claims. And for clients charitably motivated, philanthropic planning ideas still offer unique planning opportunities to balance income and estate tax savings with family legacy planning.
At Smith, Gambrell & Russell our practitioners throughout the country offer highly sophisticated and a wide variety of estate, philanthropic, income and tax planning services aimed at helping your family preserve its wealth and maintain cherished legacies.
Wishing all of our clients and the professionals who help us service these clients, a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.