Estate Tax Update / 4 Common Estate Planning Questions


Q&A: Four Commonly Asked Estate Planning Questions


1. Most of my assets are jointly titled, or they are qualified accounts with beneficiaries named. So do I still need a Will? Having a Will is still a necessity, but it can be more or less important to you depending on your estate. A Will is always needed to make sure an Executor is named, and take care of assets that are not titled jointly or with beneficiaries. It always makes sense to have a Will no matter what your circumstances.


2. How can I plan for avoiding Pennsylvania Inheritance Taxes? Most assets are subject to PA Inheritance Tax. However, one asset that's typically not subject to PA Inheritance Tax is life insurance. Life insurance also provides liquidity upon death to pay taxes, fees, etc. The inheritance tax rates are 0% between spouses, and 4.5% to kids and grandkids.


3. I have two kids, can't I just name both of them as Co-Executors? That may seem harmless, but could cause big problems for your estate later on. Putting two or more people in charge of one task is a recipe for conflict. Would it make sense to have two CEO's in charge of a company? Both children can be treated equally under the Will while one serves as Executor. Bottom line: Choose one primary, and two backup Executors.


4. What is the "Five Year Lookback Period"? When a client is in a nursing home or will be heading there and wants to qualify for Medicaid, federal law requires that any gifts made within the five previous years be accounted for. A gift made within five years could cause a penalty (based on a formula) that will prevent one from receiving benefits for a certain period of time. Qualifying for Medicaid is become increasingly complicated, and the best advice is to plan early while you're still healthy.


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Latest News on the Federal Estate Tax

What's happening with the federal estate tax? Recently, a Democratic Congressman proposed a bill in the House of Representatives to lower the federal estate tax to a $1 Million exemption per person. Currently, the exemption is $5 Million. If the bill passed, many more people would be hit by the tax. 


The bill has no chance of passing, and the estate tax exemption will remain at approximately $5 Million for 2012. However, we will be watching 2013 closely, when the current law expires. Congress and the President will need to act at some point in 2012 to avoid the estate tax going back to $1 Million in 2013. Who knows what Congress will do… or when they will do it. We'll keep a watch and keep you updated.


Article Link: McDermott Tries To Rewrite Estate Tax