I recently came across another articles about the estate tax in the news on CNNs finance website (see Estate Tax in Limbo). It again shows the confusion surrounding the estate tax and its future. Indeed, we must plan for the worst (reenactment of the estate tax in 2011 with an exclusion of $1 million) and hope for the best (a higher estate tax exclusion level). Planning for various outcomes regarding the estate tax can be accomplished with the right provisions in your revocable living trust. Make sure you consult with an estate planning attorney knowledgeable in estate tax issues to assure your revocable trust is properly drafted.
There is a push to pass estate tax reform, but no one seems to really know whether anything will be finalized. Only time will tell. I am not optimistic that the final resolution to the estate tax confusion will be a high estate tax exclusion (e.g., $5 million)--I think the government will be looking for revenues wherever they can be found and that at the lower exclusion levels, there still aren't very many estates that will be hit with estate tax (as a percentage of people dying). Also, increasing revenue through estate taxes may be easier than increasing it through income taxes--especially in a rough economy. Again, however, no one really seems to know what will happen to the estate tax, so the confusion may continue for a while yet.
If you would like to learn more about the estate tax, please call me for a free consultation or register on my website (www.hunterestategroup.com).
As an Estate Planning Attorney in Utah, I was recently asked to offer my expertise regarding the Gary Coleman Estate dispute by a local news station. I wanted to share the article with you.
Experts offer advice on wills and trusts
Reported by: Matt Gephardt
Last Update: 6/04 8:46 pm
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - When people die without a plan, it can create a mess for those left behind.
When Gary Coleman died a week ago, it seemed at first that he didn’t have a clear will. ABC 4 took a closer look at the importance of living wills and what the next days, weeks, months and years will probably bring in the estate of Gary Coleman.
Estate planning attorney Craig McCullough called the situation “a very big mess.”
Estate planning attorneys all see to agree that if you die without a plan, it leaves nothing but questions and trouble.
“What you’ve done is said, I’m not going to decide, I’ll let the court decide for me. And the state’s one-size-fits-all means one size fits nobody. And it creates lots of problems,” said Estate planning attorney Jason Hunter.
Late Friday, news of the existence of a will and trust for Coleman surfaced.
Hunter used to work outside Hollywood. He says that when a celebrity is added into an already messy situation, things tend to get a lot worse.
“There end up being a lot of claims, a lot of assets at issue. They’ve had a lot of relationships in their lives,” said Hunter.
Hunter says situations like Coleman’s can take years to sort out.
First, the court will take claims. Then come the family, the ex, the people who the deceased owed money to and anyone else who files.
Next, they will appoint a trustee who will sort out all the assets, and then a judge will decide who gets what.
But attorneys ABC 4 spoke to say it could be a lot worse. The worst cases they see come when there are kids and divorces involved.
"Mom dies, dad remarries, dad dies, and when the second wife dies her kids get everything...and the first couple’s kids didn’t get anything...and that's what state law requires,” said McCullough.
Of course it’s never comfortable to think about our own mortality. But it’s a lot easier, and cheaper, to make your wishes clear before you die.
If you don’t, lawyers warn, all the money you want to go to your loved ones might get squandered away on court fees.
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