Ask a Lawyer: Estate Planning

Estate planning is always evolving with new laws and requirements implemented every year. It’s one of the reasons is important to get your information from someone who understands the process.

This morning Wake Up 2day, we welcomed attorney Douglas C. Smith to Wake Up 2Day for our Ask a Lawyer segment.

Smith says laws on Wills and Trusts are state laws, so the change in administration will  not affect these.  The possible impact will come in  connection with estate and gift taxes.  There has been lots of discussion of revising the federal tax code, including as to estate and gift taxes.  Presently, every person can pass $5.49 million in property to their heirs or other beneficiaries tax-free.  This is nearly $11 million for a couple.  So on a percentage basis, very few Americans are subject to estate or gift taxes.  In addition, everyone gets a step-up in cost-basis of property upon death, so the house I bought in Kaimuki in the 1980s for $200,000 that is worth $800,000 at my death, will get a basis step-up, so my heirs can sell it and not have to pay capital gain.

Smith reminds everyone that it is good to touch base with your estate planning attorney every three to five years, to see if there are any changes in law affecting your plan.  Most times there will not be, and the check can be done just with a phone call.  You should also visit your attorney if there is a significant change in your own circumstances, either family changes of financial changes.

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