For millions of taxpayers who once focused much of their estate plan on avoiding the gift and estate tax, the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 brought welcome changes. Specifically, the Act set the estate and gift tax lifetime exemption amount at $5.25 million – adjusted annually for inflation. For many taxpayers, the historically high lifetime exemption amount means they no longer need to worry about estate taxes. For others it at least takes some of the pressure off. In either case, taking the focus off of gift and estate taxes may make room for other changes in your estate plan.
Just because you no longer need to worry about your estate incurring gift and estate taxes does not mean that you should stop there. In fact, now that the pressure is off as far as estate taxes go, there are some other advantageous changes you may wish to make to your estate plan as a result.
You may, for instance, wish to review your lifetime gifting strategy. Prior to the increase in the estate and gift tax lifetime exemption amount many taxpayers focused on removing high value assets from their estate prior to death to avoid incurring estate taxes on the asset. Now, your focus might be the income tax repercussions of a lifetime gift instead of the estate tax repercussions. For example, it might be wise to gift lower value assets that have yet to appreciate, but which you anticipate will appreciate in the future.
Consult with your estate planning attorney to determine what changes, if any, you should make to your estate plan in lieu of the recent changes to the law.