Estate Planning in 2013

The new year began with some political drama, as last-minute negotiations attempted to avert sending the nation over the “fiscal cliff.” Technically, we actually did go over the cliff, however briefly, as a host of tax provisions and automatic spending cuts took effect at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 2012. However, January 1, 2013, saw legislation–retroactively effective–pass the U.S. Senate, and then later the House of Representatives. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) permanently extends a number of major tax provisions and temporarily extends many others. Here are the basics.

Estate tax

The Act makes permanent the $5 million exemption amounts (indexed for inflation) for the estate tax, the gift tax, and the generation-skipping transfer tax–the same exemptions that were in effect for 2011 and 2012. The top tax rate, however, is increased to 40% (up from 35%) beginning in 2013.

The Act also permanently extends the “portability” provision in effect for 2011 and 2012 that allows the executor of a deceased individual’s estate to transfer any unused exemption amount to the individual’s surviving spouse.

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