As you may know, under current law, there will be no federal estate tax assessed against the estates of those who die in 2010. However, the federal estate tax will be reinstated with a $1 million exemption and a 45% tax rate on January 1, 2011. Many thought that Congress would have acted by now to set a higher exemption for the estate tax for 2010 and beyond, but so far no action has been taken. If Congress does act this year, whatever changes they enact may be retroactive to January 1st.
How does this affect the average person who already has a Will or Trust in place? It depends. For those with simple Wills and no tax planning, there will be no problem. There is more cause for concern if you have documents that include tax planning language that divides estate assets by referring to estate tax credits and exemptions. Most of these credits and exemptions do not exist for those who die in 2010. It is unclear what will happen if someone dies in 2010 with this type of language in their Will or trust. However, it is certain that in some situations, there will be undesirable results. [Read more…]