Many people postpone estate planning under our recent estate tax laws because the high exemptions mean that only the very wealthy actually pay estate taxes. Current exemptions are approximately $11.2 million per person. So, for a couple, the exemption will be $22.4 million until 2026. Keep in mind that true, comprehensive estate planning is about much more than taxes so do not be lulled into complacency over these large exemptions.
It could be easy to assume that a simple will suffices under these current tax laws. But that is not the case. Simple wills often fail to provide proper protection from creditors. They do not contain testamentary trusts which could protect a spouse and offer more flexibility and extend resources. They do not provide protection for beneficiaries with special needs who may need to inherit strategically to protect valuable government aid. There are many ways a simple will can obstruct your actual goals and cause harm to your heirs. Comprehensive estate planning is much more robust and takes into account your goals, your legacy and your particular family structure and financial situation.
Comprehensive estate planning also considers gifting strategies as well as preparing for incapacity. A simple will does not. You may want to consider whether making gifts during your lifetime is a beneficial strategy. The gift tax annual exclusion amount is $15,000 and the annual exclusion amount remains subject to an inflation adjustment.
The current tax law does offer a higher exemption than ever before, but 2026 is rapidly approaching and changes are certain to occur. Comprehensive estate planning takes into account future scenarios and changing tax laws. If you would like to review your current will, trust or estate plan with experienced estate planning attorneys, call Stouffer Legal at 443-470-3599 for a consultation.