Make Sure You're Not Caught on Wrong Side of Estate Tax Deadline

The Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year. Unless Congress acts, one of the casualties will be the current lifetime gift-tax exemption. The change will have tax implications for as many as 6 million households across the country, including many in New York. Fortunately, individuals can preserve their assets by employing estate planning strategies.

Right now, individuals can gift as much as $5.12 million over the course of their lifetime -- $13,000 per year per individual - without getting taxed on the gift. For a two-adult household that translates to $26,000 per year and a maximum of $10 million.

However, that number is set to drop back to $1 million (or $2 million per two-adult household). Any gift after that, except for certain gifts like paying a person's medical bills or helping a child or grandchild with their education expenses under certain circumstances, would be subject to a potential tax rate of over 50 percent.

While some people might hope that politicians will act before the deadline, that could prove to be wishful thinking. Particularly in an election year, the behavior of lawmakers is notoriously difficult to anticipate with accuracy.

For many New Yorkers the reduction may not sound like big news, but it should. Many of those same individuals will have estates worth more than $1 million by the time they reach retirement. When that happens, they will have to pay significantly more in taxes than they would have had they talked with an estate planner about strategies to minimize their tax exposure.

Source: Reuters, "Get ahead of the coming gift-tax-apalooza," Chris Taylor, June 8, 2012

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