Although our current president-elect campaigned on promises to fight for blue-collar workers, one of his major policy proposals will likely benefit only a few very wealthy individuals. The repeal of the combined federal gift and estate tax is a cornerstone of the Trump tax plan. While it is impossible to know at this stage what Trump - or Congress - will actually do, eliminating the gift and estate tax seems probable, since it will have little effect on tax revenue and is therefore unlikely to generate much controversy.
For many people in California, passing on treasured family heirlooms and sentimental property is an important part of estate planning. But, according to a recent news story, many members of the so-called "millennial" generation are not particularly interested in inheriting furniture, antiques and collectibles from their older relatives.
Avoiding probate has long been an important goal for those preparing an estate plan in California. Probate refers to the process of administering a deceased person's estate through the state court system. In California, the process can take months or even years. It can also be very expensive. Fees for lawyers and executors are based on the size of the estate and can devour a significant portion of the decedent's assets.
For more than two decades Medi-Cal, California's state Medicaid program, has had the right to assert claims against the estates of people who received Medi-Cal benefits when aged 55 or older. Avoiding a Medi-Cal recovery has been a major estate planning priority for many people. This is about to change significantly. Under a new state law, Medi-Cal's recovery rights will be significantly more limited with respect to the estates of people who die on or after January 1, 2017.
When California residents die without a will or trust, their estate is distributed according to California's intestacy laws, without regard to whatever wishes the decedent may have had. If the decedent left a substantial estate, there is also a significant risk of litigation among surviving family members and would-be heirs.
It might not be the easiest thing for people in California to think about, but estate planning is important for the future of their loved ones. It can help the individual with their own piece of mind for the inevitable. Death is a part of life. For many, illness can come before death. Because of that, having a reasonable set of goals for the future with estate planning is a sound method for asset protection. This is true whether it is a substantial estate or one more modest. Everyone has property that they want to go to the people of their choosing. Knowing how to make certain one's wishes are adhered to requires planning.
An estate plan is not something that should be prepared once and then locked away, not to be seen again until a person passes away. As we discussed in a recent post, everyone with an existing estate plan should review it every few years to make sure it still addresses their needs. It should also be reviewed and updated after certain major life events - including divorce and remarriage.
As the 2016 presidential election enters its final weeks, those voters who have not already made up their minds will be studying the candidates' positions on various issues. Some voters in the Sacramento area may wonder if the federal estate tax should be an issue of concern. The answer, for all but the wealthiest California residents, is no.
Unfortunately, estate planning is not always taken as seriously as it should be or may not be considered at all. Failing to conduct any estate planning is the worst mistake that can be made and studies show that many Americans who have reached the age where they should have come up with an estate plan have not done so. There are several errors that can be made when estate planning, or failing to estate plan, so it can be useful to know what those mistakes are to avoid them.
The IRS has proposed new regulations that, if enacted, could drastically affect estate planning for small business owners and farmers in California's Central Valley. Under the new regulations, the long-established practice of discounting shares of a family-owned business, including an agricultural business, would be curtailed.