Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that President Obama wants to freeze the current estate tax level to $3.5 million which is the estate tax exemption amount for 2009. Currently only estates with more than $3.5 million ($7 million for couples) have to pay estate tax. Obama intends to set forth his estate tax proposal in his budget next week. If the legislation is passed by Congress it will mean that the estate tax which was set to expire in 2010 would remain at $3.5 million.
The estate tax was enacted in the early twentieth century as a levy on wealth and inherited assets. It was later modified to provide that one spouse could leave an estate of any amount to the other spouse without any tax. In 2001 under President George W. Bush, Congress approved a gradual increase in the amount of the estate tax exemption with a total repeal in 2010, only to have the estate tax return in 2011 with an exemption amount of $1 million.
With the estate tax level set a $3.5 level, it is estimated that less than 2% of all deaths in this country will result in the payment of estate taxes. The vast majority of us do not have to worry about our heirs and beneficiaries having to pay estate taxes. That does not mean however that we don’t need estate planning. Even if taxes are not an issue, most people need to create a revocable living trust to avoid probate and insure that their estate is distributed to their beneficiaries on the terms they specify. If we can help with your estate plan, call us or email us at Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation.