Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 offers Estate and Elder Planning Opportunities

By Jeffrey A. Marshall, CELA*

The Central Penn Business Journal recently asked me for my predictions for 2011 with regard to estate and elder law planning. Here is my response.  

I’m anticipating a very busy year for lawyers who focus on estate planning and elder law.

The federal rules governing the taxation of gifts and estates have been completely rewritten. Clients with land or business interests or other forms of wealth will want to revisit their plans for lifetime and testamentary gifts. Unfortunately, the new estate and gift tax laws are written to sunset on December 31, 2012, so our client’s window of opportunity may be limited. This means that estate planning lawyers are likely to be reviewing and revising many client plans over the next two years.

My office represents a lot of landowners with interests in the Marcellus shale. These clients will continue to need sophisticated legal representation in regard to issues such as pipeline leases, the creation of business entities like family partnerships, and estate planning. 

Expert estate and lifetime planning assistance from a certified elder law attorney will be particularly important for seniors.  Pennsylvania’s $4 billion budget deficit could result in serious cutbacks this year in senior support services. New rules are taking effect under health reform that impact seniors, mostly positively. And recent federal cases give nursing home residents new opportunities to qualify for more extended Medicare benefits.

The Magazine then asked what advice I was currently giving to business owners?

In my 38 years of practicing law, I have never seen a better time for business owners to engage in estate planning. The new Tax Relief Act includes estate and gift tax provisions that provide business owners with a remarkable opportunity to make tax free lifetime gifts to younger generations. The $5 million dollar exemptions set for gift and generation skipping taxes can be leveraged to protect even more substantial wealth from being subjected to later death taxes. Business owners should revisit and update their plans during this two year widow. 

Married business owners need to understand the estate and gift tax portability provisions in the new law. Failing to claim the unused credit on the death of the first spouse can be a million dollar mistake.

* Jeffrey A. Marshall has been Certified as an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation under authority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court

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