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My estate planning clients often ask me about the estate tax, coming from the perspective that they want to avoid this if they can.  In most cases, my “normal” income clients are nowhere near at risk of having their estate subject to any estate tax.  What it does show me is that there is a lot of talk about the “death tax” but a lot less actual information being conveyed about what that tax really is, who is at risk of paying, etc.

I just read: Estate Planning in the Age of Obama: Where Is Tax Law Headed?, a blog article by Robert Denham, Esq. on CEB.com.  Most of this information only applies to people whose overall estate is at risk of being at or above $1 million per person.  I feel like this is a very low number for people.  What makes you say that, you ask?  Well, it could improperly impact people that have lived in a home for their entire lives, have a home worth something like $750,000, with a “modest” or “normal” amount of saved retirement or other assets that puts them over the $1 million mark, but, they are cash poor.  The estate may be forced to sell a family home simply to cover the taxes.  I feel like lawmakers will understand this, and don’t want to have any cases where the media grabs onto this and shows the horrible story about how the family home or farm was forced to be sold to cover a “death tax”.

Thus, I agree with this blog post that puts the estimate of the estate tax exemption at or near the $5 million mark.  We will only know more when law makers actually start working on this, but, the bottom line is this – if your total estate is less than $1 million (per person), this tax law change is not likely to impact you.  If you’re at or above $5 million, there is a chance it could impact your estate, but, the exemption is probably still going to be substantial enough to cover a full five million before a tax kicks in.  Therefore, not only will the well off be okay (i.e. not taxed), but the very well off will also be okay, leaving an anticipated future tax hike to impacting only the extremely well off and dipping into the pockets of the super duper filthy rich.  Hold on for the ride and let’s see what happens!

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