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Estate plans could use review after tax law changes

The tax bill passed by the GOP-controlled Congress and signed into law by President Trump in December 2017 could have consequences for many aspects of financial life for people in Georgia and across the United States. In particular, it could affect many people's estate plans.

There are a number of provisions that could affect estate plans, even if many aspects of the tax system remain the same. Gift, estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes remain at a rate of 40 percent. Under the provisions of the bill, however, the unified exemption from these taxes has been approximately doubled. There is a sunset provision built in for this increased exemption; it will automatically roll back in 2026.

One of the existing aspects of the estate tax has been retained in the bill, and that is the concept of portability. When portability is elected for a married couple, the amount of the exemption that one spouse has not used upon death can be added to the exemption of the surviving spouse. While the use of portability can encourage spouses to simply leave their assets to one another, the use of QTIP or bypass trusts can help to create protected interests for children, charities or other family members.

People who have an existing estate plan with trusts and a will may wish to take the occasion of the new tax bill to consult with an estate planning attorney to review their documents. For those who have not yet put an estate plan in place, the new changes are an excellent opportunity to begin to lay the framework for asset distribution.

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