Your estate plan is not something that you devise in one sitting and then tuck away in a lock box forever. As things change in your life estate plan updates are called for. On a personal level these changes include things like marriage, divorce, and remarriage; additions and subtractions to the family; and significant changes to your financial situation.
In addition to personal matters such as the ones mentioned above, there are also things that are out of your control that can impact your estate plan. One of these would be the ongoing legislative changes coming out of Washington that are relevant to the estate planning community. Perhaps the most profound detail that has been in constant flux over the last several years is the amount of the estate tax exclusion.
To put it simply, if the value of your estate exceeds the exclusion amount your estate will be subject to the estate tax. At the present time this exclusion is $5 million, and this amount is applicable through the 2012 calendar year. However, if there are no new laws passed in the meantime the estate tax exclusion is scheduled to be reduced to just $1 million in 2013. At the present time the maximum rate of the tax is 35%, but it is set to be raised up to 55% in 2013.
The same situation existed as 2010 was coming to a close, but the passage of the measure that is now being called the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 saved us from the $1 million exclusion and 55% rate. So, it would be logical to expect that lawmakers on Capitol Hill will be debating this matter as the sunset of the existing tax relief measure draws nearer. It may be unreasonable to expect the layman to follow this type of thing closely, and this is one of the reasons why you may want to retain the expertise of an experienced estate planning attorney.