There’s a useful saying that goes something like this: “Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.” Never has that saying been as useful as it is right now in regards to asset protection and estate planning. As Laura Lallos mentions in her article in the Morningstar Advisor, “Estate attorneys are trained to prepare for every contingency. But how do you plan for the unimaginable? Who would have predicted a U.S. tax system with no estate tax at all–and no certainty about what the estate tax will look like in 2011?”
Planning for the future when the future is so foggy is a challenge at best, but this unique year for taxes offers some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for giving and saving as well. This seems to be a time of contradictions. As the article points out, “The best strategy that financial advisors and attorneys can pursue now is to prepare their clients for the worst. On the bright side, some clients can also seize opportunities created by the gaping holes in the tax law for 2010.”
The article suggests a number of strategies that you can implement now to prepare for an uncertain future. Some of these include:
Give monetary gifts now, when the gift tax rate is a low 35%, in order to lessen your taxable estate. Better still, gift away assets, such as real estate, that are likely to appreciate in the future.
Take advantage of the one-year-only lapse in the Generation Skipping Transfer Tax.
Create a Grantor Retained Annuity Trust before the end of October to take advantage of the currently very low Section 7520 rate.
See your estate planner and make sure your estate and asset protection plans truly are “prepared for the worst.” We may not yet know what next year will bring, but that doesn’t mean we can‘t take steps to ensure our clients are prepared for whatever the future may hold.