The recently passed “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (TCJA) contains a major change to the Federal estate tax laws – the doubling of the individual estate gift and GST tax exemptions to approximately $11.2 million (double this for couples). This will greatly reduce the number of people who will be subject to the estate tax. So even if one is unlikely to be subject to Federal estate taxes (note: many states do not follow Federal estate law), there still are many sound nontax reasons to revisit estate planning and possibly update your prior documents.
1. Disposition of assets: Even if you use a revocable trust as part of your planning, a will often serves as a primary vehicle for communicating your intentions. More specifically, the provisions of one’s will can designate how assets will be transferred – outright to beneficiaries; to an existing trust (inter vivos trust); or, into a new trust that will be created under the provisions of the will (testamentary trust). Testamentary trust provisions in the will also may specify ages of beneficiaries, or other provisions, that determine when beneficiaries will receive assets. Wills also contain specific bequests of financial and nonfinancial assets (family heirlooms). Frequently, charities are named as recipients of bequests.
2. Administration and financial management of your affairs: Upon one’s passing an estate is created. The person or institution managing the affairs of the estate is the executor or personal representative. Very briefly, the executor is tasked with the marshalling and accounting of your assets and liabilities, working with the courts (probate) and disposing of your assets in accordance with your wishes. There also are related tax and administrative filings. If trusts are created under your will, another fiduciary, your trustee(s), will administer them.