New York Estate Planning Timing Good With Market Bad

A recent Wall Street Journal article reports that now is a good time to consider planning an estate in New York and elsewhere, given the volatility of the economy.

With interest rates low and Congress increasing the federal gift-tax exemption to $5 million from $1 million for people until the end of 2012, there are some advantages to planning your future now.Putting together a will and other estate plans is a critical step too often delayed. No one wants to plan out their death, but the reality is that it is a necessary step for adulthood. Especially those with children; consultation with an experienced New York Probate Lawyer is a must. Estate planning is as much for the peace of mind of the person as it is for the time and energy it saves the relatives and friends who may be inheriting assets.

Not planning an estate can cause greed and frustration to lead to arguments and fighting; sometimes, tragically, the rift becomes irreparable. And for those with minor children, a lack of estate planning can leave the kids without clear direction of where they will live and how they will be cared for. The Wall Street Journal article hits on the current economy market and how this may be a good time to take the steps to planning out an estate.


Those who have large amounts of stocks in private companies can give away the stock at a big discount. Regardless of the market’s typical ups and downs, an investor usually gets a discount when giving away some stock in a business that doesn’t trade publicly.

In normal times, the Internal Revenue Service allows a 30 to 35 percent discount because it may be harder for the company to find a buyer. But with the stock market so volatile lately, owners of private stock can argue for a bigger discount.

With the stock market up several hundred points one day and down several hundred the next, the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index has reached in the 40s. The index measures the expected volatility of the S&P 500 over 30 days. Stock owners may be able to argue for discounts in the 45 to 65 percent range.


A grantor-retained annuity trust allows a person to give an asset to a trust, but also retain rights to annuitized payments over a certain time frame. For people with battered stock of publicly traded companies, you are really giving away future appreciation tax free.

If the stocks do well, a GRAT allows a person to transfer the upside to children or a trust without paying a gift tax. The gift-tax exemption is $5 million, but will go to $1 million after 2012. However, assets put into a GRAT must appreciate more than the IRS’s “hurdle rate,” which is 2.2 percent a year.

If the assets don’t hit that hurdle, they go back to the original owner or the GRAT can be “reset” and transferred to a new GRAT. A GRAT can be as short as a two-year period.


With low interest rates, loans to fund an investment can be beneficial right now. If a loan is taken out by a trust, the children can use the money to buy stock or depressed real estate at a low price and could pay back the loan and still reap the benefits of the investment now.

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

More Blog Entries:

In Death, Amy Winehouse Appears Clever After Smart Will and Estate Planning: August 17, 2011
Ten Tips for Planning Your Estate and Will in New York: July 28, 2011
Additional Resources:

How Volatility Eases Estate Planning, by Kelly Greene, The Wall Street Journal

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