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President Obama's new budget proposals include increased estate taxes at death. The probability of this passing is slim, yet I have seen many blogs and articles already leveraging these budgetary proposals as scare tactics to entice individuals to do estate tax planning. I have also seen other attorneys slickly promoting trusts as a cure-all for all sorts of potential problems and issues.
These blogs, articles and promotions are a disservice to individuals. Of course, there are many good reasons to do estate planning and it is not something you should put off until tomorrow – regardless of if there is no tax motivation to do estate planning. Instead of scaring individuals or giving them half-truths, however, it has always been my practice to first listen to the goals and objectives of clients before determining what they should do. I want my clients to tell me where they want they assets to go upon death, if tax consequences were not a factor. It is from there that we can determine how to achieve their goal, while minimizing taxes, hassles and costs.
Yes, laws change and there are times when an impending change can require swift action. However, question anyone who uses scare tactics to motivate you to make big decisions. Estate planning is critical for everyone, but what that means for each individual will be different and planning should be carefully considered, not rushed.