Tax specialists suggest handling estate before Jan. 1

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A 2010 tax reform law that allows transferring up to $5.12 million from one generation to another in an estate plan expires at year-end.

The exemption goes down to $1 million on Jan.1, 2013, according to tax specialists. And the recommendation commonly being made to those looking at estate planning is to take advantage of the higher exemption now, while it’s available.

In January, the estate tax rate is set to rise to 55 percent from the current 35 percent rate. It is simple math according to the tax specialists that the change could cost $2 million per person or $4 million per married couple once the current law expires.

There have been some political conversations about the Obama administration proposing a 45 percent tax rate and candidate Romney advocating eliminating the death tax altogether. The 45 percent rate would be better than the 55 percent rate, but it is still a $750,000 cost per person or $1.5 million for a married couple when the estate transfers from one generation to the next. And eliminating the death tax altogether is a gamble that involves both chambers of Congress agreeing. Eliminating the death tax has been proposed for more than a decade and hasn’t happened.

“My guess is that these are the best rules you’re going to get in your lifetime,” Steve Kunkel, a managing director at CBIZ MHM, one of the nation’s largest accounting firms, has been quoted as saying.

The end of the year is fast approaching and these tax specialists are warning everyone that completing the transfer of assets and doing all the paperwork before December 31 doesn’t leave families much time to begin the process. The paperwork definitely has to be done before end of year.

If an estate plan includes real estate, appraisals are required and appraisers could be overworked to meet a year-end deadline. The same holds true for tax attorneys.

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