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By Nancy Burner, Esq.

Nancy Burner, Esq.

Spring is here and so is tax season. The income tax filing deadline this year is April 18, 2022. You have likely been gathering your documents or filing an extension. Since you are already working on putting your affairs in order, this is the perfect time to finally check estate planning off your to-do list. Why is now the best time to do estate planning when you are already stressed out about your tax documents?

You are already organized

You are already organizing your financials — expenses, bank accounts, 1099s. This is the same information you need to disclose to an estate planning attorney. Your estate just means “everything you own.” Your estate includes real property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, life insurance, business interests and any other valuables assets such as jewelry and art.

Maximize gifting next year 

If your income taxes are high or you regularly give money to family members, there may be a better way to maximize gift tax benefits. In 2022, individuals can gift up to $16,000 per year to as many people as they wish without incurring estate or gift tax. The recipient isn’t taxed on the amount received either. Individuals can also pay for other’s education and medical expenses estate and gift tax free. Although the federal exemption is very high right now at $12.06 million, it is set to sunset to $5.9 million in 2026. Estate planning attorneys can help you leverage this historically high exemption before it goes down.

Business succession planning 

If you own a business, you have likely already completed your returns. But have you thought about what would happen to your business if you became ill or passed away? Business succession planning is an integral part of estate planning — especially for small businesses. If you have any questions about your business structure, key person insurance or tax efficiency, now is the time to set up a meeting.

Save on income taxes

If your income taxes are too high, there are efficient ways to lower them. You can make donations to charity or transfer certain income generating assets to family members.

Changes in the law

Now is also a good time to review existing wills and trusts in light of upcoming changes in estate law. Do your beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts still make sense after the passing of the SECURE Act? If it has been more than a few years, you will want to make an appointment to review your documents with your attorney.

Protect your family 

Doing estate planning is one of the kindest things you can do for those you leave behind. Taking the time now to protect your family eases their burden later. If you have minor children or beneficiaries with special needs, estate planning is crucial.

An estate planner can draft an estate plan tailored to your situation — from simple wills and revocable trusts to asset protection planning — and organize your estate planning documents so everything can be kept safely in one place. We cannot know the future, but we do know that there is no way to avoid death or taxes.

Nancy Burner, Esq. is the founder and managing partner at Burner Law Group, P.C with offices located in East Setauket, Westhampton Beach, New York City and East Hampton.