1. Most people in New York need not worry about federal or state estate tax. In 2019, the federal estate tax exemption is now $11.42MM per person. The New York State estate tax exemption is now $5.74MM per person. This means that if your total assets at death fall below these numbers, your heirs will not have to pay estate taxes.
2. Most people in New York need not worry about gift tax. The federal lifetime gift tax exemption is $11.42MM in 2019 (exactly the same as estate tax). In addition, an annual federal gift tax exclusion is $15,000. That means that one can gift $11.42MM during one’s lifetime without paying any gift taxes. In addition to $11.42MM, one can gift up to $15,000 per person per year, without having to pay any federal gift taxes. There is no gift tax in New York State, so the amount of separate gifts one can make is unlimited under state law.
3. Life insurance trusts can provide liquidity to an estate. This can be extremely useful for an estate with unmarketable assets, such as a private business or real estate. If a person desires to equalize the inheritance amongst various heirs, but does not want the business or real estate asset sold, then one heir can receive the illiquid asset and the other heir can receive the proceeds of a life insurance policy.
4. Charitable trusts work best for those who are already charitably inclined. Charitable trusts include charitable lead trusts, charitable remainder trusts, pooled trusts, and donor advised funds. Various types of these trusts work better for different assets (retirement accounts, appreciated real estate, etc.) and can be structured to preserve an income stream for the donor during their life. These trusts are not designed to earn additional money for the donor.
5. Advanced directives are the most important documents to have, to ensure proper incapacity planning. Ensure that an updated proper Power of Attorney and a Health Care proxy are signed and kept securely by your estate agent.
Please contact us if you want to discuss any of these or other questions about estate planning.