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Does the estate tax matter?

The incoming Trump administration has a made a goal of ending the federal estate tax. You may think this simplifies estate planning or makes it unnecessary. In reality, only about 2 percent of estates are ever subject to the federal estate tax, so for most individuals, the presence of that tax has never been much of a concern.

The repeal of the estate tax will require Congress to act, and while there are many that want to repeal it, congressional action is rarely simple or straightforward. It is likely that there are many opinions on other changes to the tax code that would be created along with the repeal of the estate tax, so there is great uncertainty when it comes to what the law will actually look like, once it is passed by Congress.

Because an estate plan is much more than just a legal device to minimize taxes, the need for a comprehensive plan remains unchanged. You will still need a will, trusts and all of the related legal instruments, like a power of attorney and advance healthcare directives to deal with all aspects of your financial and health-related issues.

When there is uncertainty with respect to laws like the estate tax, it means you and your legal advisors must remain alert and follow all of the changes that occur in Washington and Columbus closely. 

Most estate plans use similar documents, but no two plans are alike. Variable factors include the number of children you have, the complexity of your financial arrangements, if any children have special needs, if you own a business, if your children are involved in your business, your health and how you wish to dispose of your assets.

One of the most important elements of an estate plan is having one. Second, it is essential to keep it current and up-to-date. The next few years could bring changes, but a well-drafted estate plan can be made amenable to those changes as the occur.

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