Contrary to what you may expect, this is not a plea for more year end business (although we do still have time to get that last case through if you have one on your desk). Rather, today is a reminder of that Estate Planning clock that we all know is winding down, but precious few have done anything about.
The latest rumor is that there was a meeting of the budget super committee and that the $5mil exemption was squarely in their sites (The actual rumor? A reduction in the gift tax exemption to $1mil effective this year. Yikes!). Of course, I subsequently heard that this was not the case, which proves my point for the day – time is flying by, uncertainty rules the day and this opportunity may slip through our client’s fingers like so much sand if we don’t take action now.
Why now? Simple. This type of planning is not something that you can just turn on overnight. Lawyers are involved. They get busy. Imagine the frenzy that will ensue if we find ourselves at this time next year, trying to cram through a ton of trusts and other planning work. I do not think it takes much imagination to picture the fallout from missing the deadline by a few days because a document was not filed in time, or a transfer did not take place. That is a bad place to be.
Making this even more complicated is the fact that we are heading straight for a repeat of 2010, including legislation written in the rear view mirror. What do I mean? Consider this: It’s an election year. Very few people are talking about estate tax legislation (when was the last time you thought about it?) and it does not seem to be a priority for anyone. A little more than thirteen months from now the legislation will sunset, and chaos will ensue. Eventually, Congress will have to do something. The question is what the new laws will look like, and if they are enacted after 12/31/2012, will the new laws be retroactive to 01/01/2013?
We really dodged a bullet last time, as the extension to the end of 2012 was effectively a do-over. In fact, the reunification of the gift and estate tax laws along with the increased exemption created one of the best planning opportunities I have seen. It was truly a gift. I am of the opinion that history will not repeat itself.
The good news is that unlike 2010, we are not going to face that rather macabre conflict of hoping that some rich guy “dies at the right time” to take advantage of the legislation. This time all it takes is smart planning and an advisor to lead the charge. It’s time to get out there and motivate our clients to take action rather than watch this opportunity pass them by. If you need help with an idea or two to get started, give me a ring.