Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Will Estate Planning Go Down Market?

For many attendees at the Heckerling Institute of Estate Planning, Deborah Jacobs reports, "it's the end of an era."

The era finished big, as top wealth holders rushed to transfer millions before assets over $1 million became subject to federal transfer taxes. They needn't have bothered. Five million or more continues to be exempt.

This year estate planners may keep busy holding the hands of clients who wonder what they were thinking: "Why did we give that much to our kids?" Next year, Jacobs suggests, tax audits will give planners plenty of work defending their intricate gifting mechanisms. After that . . . ?

Elder law is one option featured at Heckerling. Unfortunately, crass TV and radio commercials have given practitioners an unsavory image. But there's much more to elder law than syphoning off Mom's assets before moving her into a Medicaid-financed nursing home. This video from Bernie Krooks, one of the Heckerling presenters, shows why even something as basic as a durable power of attorney deserves careful thought.

Alas, it's unlikely that drafting revocable trusts and durable powers will pay as well as inventing clever ways to give away $5 million.

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