By Jeffrey R. Wolfe, Senior Vice President, Manager of Wealth Planning Strategies

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It’s that time of year again, National Estate Planning Awareness week.  This week is led by the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils, and is an effort to remind everyone of the importance of having a comprehensive estate plan.  To support this cause Benjamin F. Edwards will provide a blog every day this week regarding various planning ideas.

To start the week, it’s important to remind everyone that there has been a significant change in the federal estate tax rules.  With the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last December, the federal estate tax exclusion amount ballooned from $5.49 million to $11.18 million per person.  This means a married couple with proper planning can transfer $22.36 million tax free. These new exclusions also apply to the generation-skipping tax exemption as well, and all of these taxes have inflation riders. It’s important to note, though, that these exclusions expire December 31, 2025, and the law will revert to the 2017 rules (currently $5.49 million exclusion, adjusted for inflation) unless congress changes the law again.

With these higher exclusions most Americans no longer face a potential federal estate tax, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on your estate plan.  First, many plans refer to the federal estate tax exclusion in a formula to dictate how a trust is funded at death.  With this larger exclusion, your plan may be affected and assets may pass in an undesired way.

Moreover, there is more to planning than taxes.  You need to address the risk of incapacity, make determinations about how you want health care decisions made on your behalf, and you need to stipulate who and how you want loved ones to inherit your assets.  All of these decisions can be made with your estate plan.

A common rule of thumb is that you should review your estate plan whenever there is a change in the law.  This was a significant change in the law, so it’s time to review your plan.  Alternatively, if you don’t have an estate plan in place, use this moment as motivation to get started with your plan.

If you want help, work with your Benjamin F. Edwards financial advisor, along with your CPA, tax advisor and/or your estate planning attorney to make sure you have the proper planning in place.  Updating and maintaining your plan is a necessary component to ensure your legacy goals will be achieved.


This piece is intended to provide accurate information regarding the subject matter discussed. It is made available with the understanding that Benjamin F. Edwards & Co. is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or tax preparation services. Specific questions on taxes or legal matters as they relate to your individual situation should be directed to your tax or legal professional.