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Fiscal cliff deal and the estate tax

The fiscal cliff deal made changes to federal estate and gift tax exemptions and rates. The agreement avoided measures that would have dropped the estate tax exemption to $1 million from $5.12 million per individual and raised the estate tax rate on amounts over the exemption to 55 percent from 35 percent.
 
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    April 27, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Fiscal cliff deal and the estate tax

Article provided by Barreto & Romero, P.A.
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The fiscal cliff deal reached in the eleventh hour on January 1st made changes to federal estate and gift tax exemptions and rates. The agreement avoided draconian measures that would have dropped the estate tax exemption to $1 million from $5.12 million per individual and raised the estate tax rate on amounts over the exemption to 55 percent from 35 percent.

Fiscal cliff deal makes estate taxes, exemptions permanent

The compromise reached on the first of the month made permanent changes to the estate and gift taxes. The $5.12 million exemption will remain, but the tax rate on amounts greater than $5.12 million rises to 40 percent, compared to 35 percent in 2012.

The exemption also adjusts for inflation, which means that the true dollar amount exempted after the adjustment could be greater than $5.12 million. Additionally, the exemption is portable between spouses, which means that a surviving spouse can use their late partner's exemption without that partner establishing a trust, cutting down on the number of bypass trusts individuals and their estate planning attorneys will need to draft.

How the deal affects gift taxes

The estate tax agreement also affects gift taxes. The $5.12 million lifetime exemption for gifts remains unchanged and was made permanent and unified with the estate tax. The annual gift exclusion for 2013 was raised to $14,000 from $13,000 in 2012. However, the tax rate for gifts over these exemptions will be 40 percent in 2013, identical to the estate tax rate.

How an estate planning attorney can help

Estate planning attorneys help individuals develop plans for how their assets will be divided in the event of their passing. They help their clients understand estate tax laws and how taxes may or may not affect their estates.

When planning an estate, individuals and their lawyers should designate beneficiaries on financial accounts, including life insurance policies, brokerage accounts and retirement accounts. Beneficiary designations trump wishes expressed in personal wills for how financial accounts are distributed, so designating and updating beneficiaries on financial accounts is especially important.

In addition to designating beneficiaries, estate planning attorneys can help individuals develop a plan for how assets are transferred, including over time or through a trust, and how to distribute assets in the most tax-efficient way. Estate planning lawyers can also help business owners create a plan for what will happen to their businesses upon death. Owners may choose to sell the business or pass it on to a loved one or a business partner.

Lastly, estate planning attorneys can help individuals draft a personal will, which is the primary guide on how property, including financial property, should be divided at death. Individuals can include charity donations, establish a legal guardian for dependent children and ensure that property is distributed according to the individual's wishes.

To learn more about how the fiscal cliff deal may affect your estate plans or to establish a plan for what happens to your assets when you pass on, please contact an experienced estate planning attorney.



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