The Exuberant Accountant isn’t the spamming type so when he sent out an email to, presumably, all of his blog’s email subscribers as a warning about new estate tax rules in 2010, it was clear this wasn’t a casual tax issue. Scott Heintzelman was kind enough to give me a few minutes to break down what this means for estates and why we should care.
Disclaimer: I took an estate tax class no less than two months ago and have since forgotten everything I learned so I needed a refresher anyway. As always, if you need advice on actually planning your estate, don’t listen to me and get yourself a CPA and/or tax lawyer. “We are accountants, ultimately we don’t draft agreements,” says Scott and he’s absolutely right. Get a trained mine-sniffer on that particular cluck mission.
Scott pointed to a recent post from his firm’s McKonomics blog called “No Estate Tax is a Good Thing, Right?” and it goes without saying he doesn’t believe this “no estate tax thing is good” by any means.
He gave the example of getting hit by a bus (awww, don’t run over the Exuberant Accountant!): If he walks out of his office tomorrow and dies, certain language in his will might leave a trust with $0 for poor Mrs Exuberant Accountant. What about the little Exuberant Accountant Jrs?! The humanity! Don’t worry, we’d start a charity drive.
Anyway, from McKonly & Asbury:
[M]any estate planners wrote wills with such language that the bypass trust would be funded with an amount equal to “the current lifetime exemption amount.” Since we currently have no estate tax, and no lifetime exemption amount, if a spouse dies in 2010, we could potentially have an unfunded bypass trust. This is especially alarming since we can all assume the estate tax will come back and we may have a taxable estate once the second [spouse passes] away.