Legacy Planning in an Election Year

Shifting Tax Laws Can Create Additional Uncertainty


controlElection year is officially under way and with it comes the slew of campaign ads, increasingly tense debates – both on television and on Facebook – and the knowledge that before year’s end, all of us will have to cast our votes.

Regardless of your positions on the issues at hand, one thing is certain and that’s change. What you might not have anticipated is the effect this change could have on your legacy planning. This is especially true this year, as tax policy is shaping up to be one of the major issues of the 2016 election.

The tax plans that candidates have released in recent weeks are mostly focused on income tax bracket restructuring, but the death tax, or federal estate tax, is mentioned in at least two proposals.

The current exemption sits at $5.45 million per person and $10.9 million per married couple, and candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders hope to lower these amounts to $3.5 million and $7 million, respectively. I realize that this reduction wouldn’t affect most people, but it is a still a nearly $2 million change that would affect four out of 1,000 estates, according to a Yahoo Finance article. In a population of 300 million (United States Census Bureau), that quarter of a percent factors out to well over 1 million people. And it’s one of many changes on the table – the gift tax exemption being another.

I’m not going to argue for or against these policies. That’s not the purpose of this article. It’s simply to highlight the fact that this is a year of change and I want readers to be aware of the tax climate when creating plans for their legacy.

Because shifting tax laws can make legacy planning feel like trying to hit a moving target, I thought this was an appropriate time to reassure you that legacy planning is just as important if not more so. The best course of action is to consult a professional or two who can guide you to making the best decision possible for you and your family. They are abreast of potential changes and will know if it’s smart to put that plan in place now or wait just a little longer until circumstances prove more favorable for your situation.

The important takeaway here is not to let this added uncertainty dissuade you from tackling something as important as your legacy. Uncertainty will always be around; change is always around the corner.  That’s why we need to create plans now and update them frequently as life changes. As I always say, it’s not what we obtain in life that matters but rather what we can maintain. Accordingly, it is not the plan that we put into place that matters but rather the evolution of that plan over time.

Legacy Shield allows you to create, organize, safely store, and securely share your legacy. 

For more information on the tax reform, check out the Tax Foundation’s 2016 candidate comparison.


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