Estate Matters: A Paper Trail – and Why You Should Have One

Posted by Don W on April 22, 2010 under Estate Tax and Planning, Tax Matters in the News

Though we don’t like to think about it, it remains a fact that anything can happen to anyone, at any time – but through a handful of small actions, you can make things easier for your close family and friends:  by making your important documents easier to find in an emergency.

Four years ago, my brother keeled over (a cardiac event, it was called) and over the course of the next three days, while he was unconscious, it was left to the neighbors to search through his home to find any Health Care Directives, Power of Attorney papers and – if worse came to worst – a will.  The closest neighbor reported to me by phone that all such documents were eventually found, but in three different rooms throughout the house.  It made them frantic.

To avoid such a scenario in your own life, consider taking a bit of time to assemble a paper trail – and share it with at least a few close, trusted neighbors, friends or relatives.  Make it easier for them to help you.

A recent article in the New York Times provides a practical approach to putting together your own paper trail.  It may come in handy some day!

Watch Out, Grandma!

Posted by Don W on December 22, 2009 under Estate Tax and Planning, Tax Matters in the News

Happy New Year 2010 – watch out, Grandma!

Not long ago, Senator Charles Grassley, (R-Iowa) – the same senator who tried to kill the expat’s foreign earned income exclusion a few years back – criticized healthcare legislation because he didn’t want “Grandma to face a death panel”.

But it could happen – for an entirely different reason:  Last Wednesday, at a meeting of the Estate Planning Council of Seattle, the speaker – a Virginia attorney well-up-to-date with legislative affairs – reported that Congress has yet to act to prevent the federal estate tax rate from going down to ZERO, effective 1 Jan 2010.  That’s 10 DAYS from today as I write this.

For years, among tax and legal professionals, this possibility has been somewhat cynically known as the “throw Grandma from the Train” year – because the law that authorized the 2010 zero tax – for one year only – also authorized reverting to the 2002 estate tax law which re-imposes such a tax starting January 1, 2011.

The Estate Planning Council speaker forecast Congress’s odds of changing this law in the next 10 days as no better than 10%.  Most everyone assumed that someday – before NOW – Congress would modify the law in plenty of time to avoid this outcome.  Watch out, Grandma; and good luck!