2020 End of the Year Estate Planning

Written by Robert Nickerson

I’m not here to play favorites. 2020 has proven to be a year of strong opinions, especially with the Covid-19 virus. It’s certain that a lot of people are eyeing the soon to be election of the next president. Whether Donald Trump will see another four years or Joe Biden will be the next president is anyone’s guess. 
What I’m here for is to discuss some proposals that could be put into place should Joe Biden win the election. A lot of it will also depend on which party controls congress, but I wanted to address it because it would effect wealth transfer planning and overall estate planning. Here are three things that could change.
1.Reducing the Estate and Gift Tax Exemption. Currently, you can transfer up to $11,580,000 ($23,160,000 per married couple) during life or at death without incurring federal gift or estate tax. Transfers in excess of that exemption amount are subject to gift or estate tax at a rate of up to 40%. Biden has proposed retuning estate tax levels to “historical norms.” This could mean that, effective as of January 1, 2021, the estate tax exemption amount could be reduced to $3,500,000 ($7,000,000 per married couple), the gift tax exemption amount could be reduced to $1,000,000 ($2,000,000 per married couple), and the top gift and estate tax rate could be increased to 45%. Accordingly, your currently remaining gift tax exemption amount that is not used before yearend might not only be lost, but your future gifts might be subject to a higher tax rate.

2.Eliminating Basis Step-Up at Death. Currently, for federal income tax purposes, the basis of inherited property is “stepped-up” to the property’s fair market value on the decedent’s date of death, effectively eliminating all capital gains on predeath appreciation. Biden has endorsed eliminating this benefit, however, it is unclear whether his proposal is to impose a tax on unrealized appreciation at the decedent’s death or to simply eliminate the basis step-up, so that inherited property would retain the basis that it had in the hands of the decedent.

Increasing Tax Rate on Long-Term Capital Gains and Qualified Dividends for High Earners. Currently, the maximum federal tax rate on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends is 20%. Biden proposes to increase the top federal tax rate on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends to 39.6% on income above $1,000,000.
As we approach Election Night closer, we can only conclude that anything is possible. But what we do have is today. Today and the time we have now is the moment where we can act upon something before the law is changed. I highly recommend looking into your estate plan to act upon current strategies as soon as you can. If you want assistance, then we are more then happy to help. Please contact our office for more information.

Leave a Reply