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Your Estate Planning New Year’s Resolution Checklist

(This is an updated post from December 2014)

Need a New Year’s resolutions to kick start 2016? Here is an idea you probably hadn’t considered: review your estate planning documents.

If you are like most people, you are probably thinking that reading legal documents does not sound like an even remotely enjoyable way to start a new year. But, it doesn’t have to be as unpleasant as it sounds. Reviewing your documents does not mean you have to read them cover to cover. If you know what are the most important elements, it is easy to review your will, trust, and powers of attorney regularly to ensure they still comply with your wishes. These documents not only determine who will receive your property when you die, but also likely determine who has the right to make financial and major medical decisions during your lifetime. Needless to say, it is important

To Do: Year-End Gifting. Check (or not)

With the end of the year approaching, we thought now would be a good time to re-post and update this blog from the end of 2014.

For 2016, the annual exclusion gift amount will remain the same at $14,000 but the lifetime gift tax exemption will increase to $5,450,000 (up from 2015’s $5,430,000).

With fourteen days left in the year, many people are still planning how to make 2015 gifts, whether by making “annual exclusion” gifts of $14,000 per beneficiary, or by taking advantage of the 2015 gift tax exemption amount of $5,430,000.  Whatever the reason for the last-minute gifting, as the end of the year approaches, people may be tempted to make a “quick and easy” gift to their beneficiaries by simply writing a check. As the year draws to a close, however, if your gift is dependent on utilizing 2015 tax law, beware of the potential trap of making a gift

IRS: Transcript Can Be Alternative to Estate Tax Closing Letter

Back in August, we wrote about how the IRS would no longer automatically issue closing letters for filed Form 706, United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Returns.  Instead, the IRS will only issue closing letters upon request by the taxpayer.

However, on December 4, the IRS updated its Frequently Asked Questions on Estate Taxes website to provide estates with an alternative to requesting and obtaining an IRS closing letter:

“Account transcripts, which reflect transactions including the acceptance of Form 706 and the completion of an examination, may be an acceptable substitute for the estate tax closing letter.”

Further, transcripts are easily available:

“Account transcripts are available online to registered tax professionals using the Transcript Delivery System (TDS) or to authorized representatives making requests using Form 4506-T.”

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