Many financial advisers believe the tax laws around estates and gifting will change in 2013, possibly for the worst for those that are financially comfortable.
For example, current tax laws on gifting allow individuals a lifetime tax exemption of $5.12 million on taxable gifts.
Additionally, since the return of the Federal Estate Tax in 2011, estates valued at or less than $5.12 million are exempt from the estate tax. Your estate is your net worth at time of death including life insurance and retirement plan benefits.
These provisions could face a drastic change in 2013 barring a modification of tax laws prior to January 1.
If revisions to current Bush- and Obama-era tax laws are not made, both the gift and estate tax exemptions could be reduced to as low as $1 million per individual in the new year.
Regardless of whether or not it will drop to $1 million, most believe it will be reduced from current levels. That’s why Texas Estate Planning Attorney Brad Wiewel advises his clients that it is best to “get their money out” of their estate before it is too late.
“People need to consider gifts,” Wiewel said. “You want to get the growth of money out of your estate.”
Wiewel recommends his clients take advantage of the $5 million gift tax exemption while it is still around in order to get the future growth of their estates out, protecting it from the potential reductions in allotted gifting.
“Most people are making gifts for their kids in the form of trusts,” he explained. “The benefit of a trust is that parents can divorce-protect that money, lawsuit-protect and bankrupt-protect it.”
Bankruptcy-protecting a trust ensures that money left to a beneficiary will not be lost to future debts if they declare bankruptcy. Lawsuit-protecting and divorce-protecting the trusts run the same line, guarding the money from going toward any future lawsuits or outlaws in a divorce or other settlement.
“Some wealthy parents get nervous when their child marries and they want them to sign a pre-nup,” he said. “The last thing these wealthy clients want is an outlaw taking use of their money. They don’t want it to go to an ex.”
For these reasons, along with being able to protect the true value of one’s estate, “the trust is the universal problem solver,” Wiewel said. One can set up a trust for a child, or even a grandchild with a dynasty trust, and protect that money from lawsuits, divorces, bankruptcy and of course gift and estate taxes.
While one can speculate about what exactly will happen to the tax exemptions come 2013, it is wise to look at your options now before it is too late. The goal is to protect your estate and get (or gift, rather) your money out now, and setting up a trust may just be the best way to do so.