With the recent release of the Republican tax reform bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the Act) and the Senate tax reform bill, estate planners may find it challenging to convince clients to implement estate-planning techniques. The Act includes a proposal to double the federal estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemption amount and permanently repeal the estate and GST tax in 2024. The Senate bill would double the $5.49 million exemption for individuals. But, as many industry experts have noted (including Al W. King III in his article, “Tips From the Pros: Does Estate Tax Repeal Really Matter?” p. 11), clients need to understand that planning isn’t all about estate taxes. They should have strategies in place to handle other important issues, such as asset protection, family governance and succession, spendthrift heirs or family members suffering from drug additions (for example, see “Epidemic of Opioid Abuse and Other Addictions,” by Kevin L. Johns, p. 57). Yes, we’re in the midst of a time of uncertainty, but the answer isn’t putting our heads in the sand. We can draft trusts for clients that provide flexibility so they’re prepared for what the future will bring.
Now’s also a good time to focus on our practices and make sure we’re staying ahead of societal changes placing new demands on estate planners. In their article, “A FAST Solution to Legacy Planning,” p. 29, Marvin E. Blum, Gary V. Post and Thomas Rogerson discuss the family advancement sustainability trust to address clients’ qualitative goals. We must also be prepared for new breeds of clients, like those with startup businesses (for example, in technology, life sciences and social media). In “Personal Planning for Startup Founders,” p. 62, David T. Leibell and Erin Wilms tackle the unique needs of these clients.
The times may be changing, but with the assistance of our editorial advisory board, we’ll help you understand the ins and outs of any new tax laws and how to navigate this volatile environment.