Estate Planning

IRS Gives Surviving Spouses a Second (or Third) Bite at the Portability Apple

By Jeffrey Eisen

“Portability” is the ability of a surviving spouse to use not only his or her own estate tax exemption, but also some or all of the exemption of the first spouse to die, as long as the first spouse died in 2011 or later.  With the estate tax exemption for 2017 at $5,490,000, this can allow estates of nearly $11,000,000 to escape estate tax. While a full discussion of portability is beyond the scope of this post, suffice it to say that portability can save the day in one or more of these situations: if proper estate planning has not been done, if life insurance, IRAs or retirement plans left to the surviving spouse constitute a very large portion of a couple’s assets, or if a couple’s assets of any type are worth near the value of one exemption but less than both (e.g., $4,500,000 to $10,500,000).

The catch is that if the deceased spouse’s assets are worth less than his or her exemption amount, the deceased spouse’s executor has to file a federal estate tax return (Form 706) for the deceased spouse to “claim” the deceased spouse’s unused exemption and thus invoke “portability.”   This is the direct opposite of the normal rule that if a decedent’s estate is worth less than the estate tax exemption amount (after taking lifetime gifts into account), no estate tax return filing is necessary.  But if the deceased spouse’s executor does not file a timely estate tax return for the deceased spouse (nine months after the date of death, or an additional six months thereafter if a request for an extension was properly filed by the nine month deadline), the ability to use portability is permanently lost. (more…)

Estate Planning – When the Only Certainty is Unpredictability

By Allan B. Cutrow and Jeffrey K. Eisen

 

Donald Trump is now the President, and both chambers of Congress are under Republican control. Thus, we appear to be poised for potentially substantial changes in the estate tax, gift tax, generation-skipping transfer tax, and income tax laws. However, as with all other aspects of political life in America today, it is impossible to predict at this time what ultimate changes will materialize. The only clear thing is the lack of clarity.

  1. Is the Estate Tax History? First, there is the perpetual Republican promise, supported by the President, of “repealing” the estate tax. Last time the estate tax was “repealed” (in 2001), it really meant eight years of gradually increased exemptions and gradually decreased rates, followed by one year of repeal (2010), followed by the return of the estate tax with even greater exemptions and lower rates, which is where we are today. Will this happen again? Will the estate tax just disappear retroactive to 1/1/17 or perhaps on 1/1/18? Will deficit hawks decide that even the relatively tiny revenue generated by the estate tax is worth keeping to avoid a political fight with Democrats? (more…)

Four Lessons Learned from Prince’s Estate (So Far)

By Jeffrey K. Eisen

Several of the events surrounding the initial administration of Prince’s estate provide lessons applicable to all estate plans, not just celebrity estate plans.

  1. If You Don’t Have an Estate Plan, the State Will Write One For You. Prince died without a Will.  Because he was not married at the time of his death and he had no surviving parents, children or grandchildren, his sister, and his five half-brothers and half-sisters each will inherit one-sixth of his estate.  Two other half-siblings died before Prince, apparently leaving no children of their own; otherwise, they would be entitled to part of the estate as well.

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No Password? See You In Court?

By Seth W. Krasilovsky

Many headlines have been generated over recent attempts to recover highly desired data from a locked smart device after the death of the device’s owner.  While the legal battle between Apple and the FBI over information stored by one of the San Bernardino shooting suspects in an iPhone pitted law enforcement against the technology community, it should also serve as a high profile reminder of the need to address digital passwords as part of an estate plan. (more…)