Don’t just sit there, plan but plan flexibly! Article here:
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Your clients may think that their best course of action is to hold tight until the political landscape becomes clear. This is an attitude that could cost them. Now is not the time to wait for news from the government before taking action.
Uncertainty about tax and healthcare policies can lead your clients to steer clear of planning altogether and even revising existing plans because of the perception that the rules of the game might change so substantially that any plan done now will be wasted or rendered moot later. But a “wait and see” approach can spell disaster for a client’s family if they are caught unprepared.
Modern estate planning is carefully designed to be very flexible so it can adapt to changes. We can even include mechanisms to deal with many of the changes that might happen under some of the Trump tax and healthcare proposals. Some flexibility tools include trust protectors, trust decanting provisions, and broad powers and discretion for trustees so they can adapt their administration of the trust to legal, investment and tax circumstances as they occur.
Plus, the reasons for estate planning are not only those related to tax planning. The most important reasons for planning or revising existing planning have less to do with taxes and more to do with the following client needs:
- Ensuring continuity: Estate planning keeps the bigger picture of family businesses, wealth and legacy in focus and provides a structure that supports long-term family wealth goals.
- Ensuring private settlement of family affairs: Using a will or doing no planning virtually assures a public probate process, whereas trust-based estate planning can ensure privacy—a valuable benefit for many families.
- Reducing settlement costs and time: Trusts are often less expensive and less time-consuming than probating a will or administering an intestate estate.
- Avoiding living probate: Regardless of shifting tax policies, clients need to protect themselves from guardianship or conservatorship (also known as living probate) if they become incapacitated and are unable to make their own financial and healthcare decisions.
- Providing long-term asset management: Estate planning offers the opportunity to preserve and protect assets for surviving spouses, children, grandchildren, and other intended beneficiaries.
No matter what the future holds, you should always focus on what your clients can control. Although changes to tax rates, deductions, exemptions, and so on may impact how much tax must be paid in any given year, there are no credible proposals that do away with taxes altogether. All clients must have a plan in place to ensure their financial legacy avoids as much tax while also achieving their other (often more important) estate planning goals.