For wealthy seniors, state death taxes may now be a big issue, especially if the seniors have the ability to relocate to a “death tax” friendly state.

The federal estate tax is set (for at least another two years) but we still expect some states to continue making changes to their own estate tax.  The fact is that state governments are caught between a rock and a hard place.  According to an article in Forbes Magazine,  “The changing state landscape… reflects a lot of ambivalence by state officials themselves. They want the estate tax revenue, but worry about chasing wealthy seniors across state borders.”

If you’re looking for an estate-tax-friendly state to which to retire you can check out the link to the map in the Forbes article; but before you move be sure to do your research.  Just because a state has no estate tax (or a high exemption amount) one year doesn’t mean it won’t change the next.  The best strategy is to be familiar with the state’s history.  How long has their estate tax been in place? Has there been any legislation proposed recently regarding the tax? How likely is it that their tax policies will remain the same as they are when you move?

Illinois recently made changes to the state laws regarding estate tax, and other states that are most likely to make changes in the future include Hawaii, Ohio, Connecticut and Vermont. “But don’t count on these efforts… even if you get relief one year, the levy can go up again the next.”

As always, the best strategy is to plan ahead, review your plan often, and have a knowledgeable estate planning attorney on your side.