VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

How new tax laws may impact estate planning

Florida residents should routinely check on their estate plan to ensure that it meets their needs. Ideally, an individual will conduct a review every three years or so. Scheduling an estate plan review may be especially important in the aftermath of the new tax reform bill recently passed by Congress. One of the larger changes to the tax law has to do with the estate tax. Previously, individuals with estates up to $5.6 million were exempt from paying federal estate tax.

Now, that exemption is increased to $11.2 million for individuals and $22.4 million for married couples. However, it may be worth asking an estate planner how the changes may impact estate taxes at the state level. In some cases, exemption amounts may increase while they stay the same in others. Furthermore, married couples should make sure that steps have been taken to invoke portability as exemptions are not ported automatically.

Regardless of changes to the tax law now or in the future, estate plan documents should offer specific guidance. For instance, a financial power of attorney should have express language as to how much can be gifted to other parties or if beneficiaries can be changed. This person might be able to discontinue support payments or take other actions that go against an incapacitated person's wishes.

Reviewing an estate plan every few years may make it easier to ensure that it still meets a person's needs. If necessary, an attorney may be able to edit or draw up new estate plan documents such as a will or trust. Legal counsel may also help review beneficiary designations that have been made. It is worthwhile to review beneficiary designations whenever a life event occurs such as marriage, divorce or the birth of a child.

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