A Legal Update

There’s a bit of news in the estate planning world that I thought I’d share with you this week:

1. Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Changes

There is currently a potential law (HB 971) working its way through the PA House and PA Senate to eliminate inheritance tax for property passing from a parent to children under the age of 21.  We’ll continue to watch this and potentially other inheritance tax changes in the future.  If this passes and is signed by the Governor, it could be a turning point for PA inheritance tax law.  The inheritance tax is unpopular and many legislators want it on the chopping block.

2. Gift Tax 2017

The annual gifting exclusion amount will stay at $14,000 for 2017.  This has been a consistent number for the last four years now.  Remember, you can gift $14,000 per year, per person without filing any paperwork with the IRS.  Also, gifts of $14,000 or less do not count towards your lifetime gifting/estate tax exemption (over $5 million per person).

Please contact me for questions about gifting and whether gifting makes sense for your estate.

3. Nursing Home Contracts

Many nursing homes and their parent companies have inserted arbitration clauses into nursing home contracts for years now.  These clauses keep lawsuits out of the court system, which creates an unfair advantage for the nursing home.  Keeping cases out of court also shield nursing homes from publicizing embarrassing and unflattering news.  Now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued a rule that bars federal funding for nursing homes that utilize arbitration clauses.  It is expected to be challenged, of course.  

Entering or placing someone you love into a nursing home is a major life event, and the little things and fine print can often be overlooked at the time.  But that fine print can have a significant impact later on.  It’s important to have an elder law attorney review a nursing home contract prior to you or someone you love signing it.  Also, the attorney should also investigate whether there may be last minute strategies available to preserve a portion of the estate if no advanced asset protection planning was done prior.  Of course, the best way to manage all of this is to have a comprehensive estate plan in place well before you need it.

I’ll keep my eye on the laws, regulations and rulings that could effect your estate plan. Stay tuned…