Estate Tax in New York Remains Uncertain

The Estate Tax continues to generate many articles and much analysis. As previously reported in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog, the changes in the Federal Estate Tax that occurred in December 2010 resulted in increasing the Federal estate tax exemption to $5 million dollars for 2010, 2011 and 2012. The Federal gift tax exemption for 2010 was $1 million but will increase to $5 million for 2011 and 2012. Also, during these years, the 100% marital deduction will remain and the new legislation introduces the new concept of “portability” which allows a decedent to transfer his or her unused federal estate tax exemption to a surviving spouse.

While these new tax provisions may protect more estates from potential federal estate taxes, tremendous uncertainty still exists. The new estate tax provisions expire at the end of 2012 after which the exemption shrinks to $1 million. Adding to the complexity is the New York State estate tax which currently has an exemption of only $1 million. Thus, if a decedent’s estate transferred more than $1 million to a non-spouse, the estate may be subject to New York estate tax. For example, if a decedent’s estate was $2,000,000 and was inherited by children, the $5,000,000 federal exemption would result in no federal estate tax. However, a $2,000,000 estate would result in a $99,600.00 New York estate tax.

Consulting with a New York estate planning attorney is important both to plan an estate for the future and to help with estate settlement and administration following a death. One important aspect of post-death planning can involve the use of the new “portability” provision. A key aspect of preserving the unused portion of a decedent’s federal exemption is to timely file a Federal estate tax return (Form 706). In a recent article in Forbes by Robertson Williams, dated November 30, 2011,The Coming Flood of Estate Tax Returns, the author notes that many tax returns may be filed for the sole purpose of preserving the portable exemption from one spouse to the other.

Estate Executors and Administrators have the fiduciary responsibility of collecting estate assets, paying debts and expenses, and preparing and filing estate tax returns. In view of the complexity of the tax laws, the job facing the fiduciary is not easy. Consultation with probate and estate settlement lawyers and other tax advisors is essential to protect estate assets and take advantage of all deductions and exemptions.

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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