ADVANCED PLANNING – A DECADE IN REVIEW: WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED OVER THE LAST DECADE AND WHERE ARE WE HEADED?
By Chelsea J. Suttmann, Esq.* and Melissa R. Karlsten, Esq.**
The past decade has ushered forth a high degree of uncertainty regarding the tax code, the federal estate and transfer tax exemption amounts, and the system of wealth and transfer taxation in the United States. Estate planners have waded through three tax acts and anticipate additional changes as our current tax act sunsets at the end of 2025. This is on top of the fact that, since 1997, the federal estate and transfer tax exemption amount has increased to over nineteen times its past value of $600,000.00.1 How has this affected planners, and how we advise our clients? What have we learned? What techniques have withstood the tests of time, and which have fallen by the wayside? This article travels the various peaks, valleys, and fiscal cliffs contained within the past ten years and examines trends, changes, and patterns in order to explore how to best utilize advanced planning tools and techniques for clients. It discusses how some of the changes have caused hurried planning decisions, sometimes leading to client resentment and buyer’s remorse, and explores how planners can address estate planning uncertainty with clients.
I. ESTATE TAXATION AND THE EVER-INCREASING EXEMPTION AMOUNT – A TEN YEAR LOOK BACK