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Estate Tax Changes Can Effect New York Estate Planning

As 2012 is coming to an end, so are the many provisions of the tax laws that are set to expire on December 31, 2012. Among the laws that will change in 2013 is the Federal Estate Tax. At present, a New York Estate Attorney is aware that the federal estate tax exclusion is $5,000,000. When the estate tax laws change in a few months, only $1,000,000 will be protected from taxation.

The impending dramatic change in federal estate tax protection has created uncertainty and confusion for individuals and estate planners. This is especially so since neither Congress or the President have shown any indication that a definitive new law is being seriously considered.

For example, a Manhattan Estate Lawyer or Brooklyn Trust and Estates Attorney can prepare a Last Will for a client with precise provisions regarding the disposition of assets such as real estate, bank accounts, brokerage accounts and retirement funds. The Will can be probated in the Surrogate’s Court according to set procedures and requirements. However, the provisions in the Last Will dealing with estate tax planning must be flexible enough to accommodate the uncertainty in the tax laws that are going to change but in an unknown manner.

The variations in recent years in estate taxes due to the changing tax code and the failure of the government to provide long term certainty has resulted in unwanted and unexpected estate settlement and estate administration problems. For example a recent article in Business Financial News by Amy Feldman on July 31, 2012 recounted how a tax savings clause in a Will resulted in litigation to prevent an apparent aberration in the decedent’s estate plan. Essentially, a formula tax savings clause that was intended when drafted in 2008 to provide a sum of money to the decedent’s children of only about $2,000,000 would have given the children all of their mother’s $100 million dollar estate in 2010 when the estate tax had been eliminated. The problem was that the decedent’s husband would not have received any portion of the estate. When the Will was originally written it was not expected that there would be no estate tax in 2010 resulting in an unlimited bequest to the children.

The New York State estate tax law currently provides for a $1,000,000 exclusion. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the Federal Estate tax exclusion during the past years and in the coming months, questions continue to be raised regarding the need for the tax. An article appearing in The Daily Caller on September 4, 2012 discussed a report by the congressional Joint Economic Committee that the cost to enforce the estate tax is greater than the benefits it produces.

As a New York Trusts and Estates Lawyer, I am involved with potential estate tax issues with regard to Will preparation, estate planning and probate and estate administration. The initial concern is whether or not a person’s estate is subject to possible taxation based upon its value. If so, other issues such as the use of deductions, credits and gifts must be considered to minimize the impact of the tax. These considerations can be quite complex and require the cooperative efforts of the client and his or her tax advisors.


New York Probate Attorney Jules M. Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to estate planning, estate accountings and estate settlement in Manhattan and Queens and throughout New York. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.

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