Since the federal estate tax exemption is at an historically high level of over $11 million, this leads to many questions brought by a client to estate planning attorneys about portability mechanism. These portability mechanisms have to do with a client’s unused exemption at death and many people are choosing to keep their estate planning as simple as possible and elect to leave all of their assets directly to the surviving spouse.
Bear in mind that the federal estate tax exemption is portable, however, the exemption associated with the federal generation skipping transfer tax is not.
This means that the GST exemption in situations in which all assets are left behind to a surviving spouse could be wasted. GST planning is often not an issue for most families because of the high exemption levels. However, those with significant wealth could make mistakes related to GST planning. Besides the tax issues associated with this portability exemption, many clients today are not married to the parent of his or her children. Some clients might not care exactly about who will benefit from their assets, but many do have exact provisions and guidelines that they want to enact.
The appropriate method through which to do this is by using a trust to establish some level of control and peace of mind for the client. A trust enables you to determine what happens to these assets and how they can be passed on to future generations while also allowing some conditional provisions that can make things easier for you as well as your loved ones.
Getting some peace of mind with your estate planning begins with scheduling a consultation with an experienced lawyer who is highly knowledgeable about the constantly evolving aspects of the estate planning process and one who will keep you informed as state and federal laws related to estate taxes change in the future so that you are always updated with the right planning.