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Quick-- Call Your Lawyer!

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

If you’re a wealthy American who wants to pass assets on to your next generation, you’d better lawyer up fast. …That is, if you haven’t already.

As the likelihood of a Democrat clean sweep across the Senate, House and Presidency has increased, we’ve been having more and more conversations with clients about transferring their fortunes to the next generation now in order to exploit generous estate tax rules ushered in by President Donald Trump.

Joe Biden has not only proposed substantially higher estate tax rates on the rich, but he has also proposed making them much harder to avoid. Republican tax law changes in 2017 doubled the amount that rich families can pass on without paying the tax (to $11.58 million for individuals and $23.16 million for couples this year) and savvy investors can protect much more from taxes by using complex planning techniques (commonly referred to as “loopholes” by opponents) which are part of the current tax code.

Those who wait until the election results are clear will risk missing their chance. It takes time to set up trusts, decide which assets to give away, and appraise businesses and valuable possessions like art. …And we expect planners and attorneys will be be very, very busy.

I suppose there are non-tax reasons to transfer wealth soon, too. Low interest rates mean that you can loan assets to your children and grandchildren at super-low interest rates without hitting your tax bogey. Also, the value of many private businesses has fallen considerably this year which makes it easier to pass those businesses on to family members without eating up your entire gift tax exemption.

People don’t like to have their hands forced by the government; I get it. I just think it’s a great time for those who have been thinking about it to transfer assets between generations, and we’re finding that a lot of people feel the same-- this combination of lower valuations and potential future tax increases seems to be driving a lot of planning activity.

So, if it has crossed your mind, get on it now. By this time next month, your lawyer might very well be booked.

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