There are certain life events that should trigger a review of one’s estate plan. A death in the family, the birth of a new family member, a divorce or a marriage are common examples. Another example: tax changes.

The tax code has gone through some major changes in recent years. Just last year, the biggest tax change in over four decades went into effect. This change should have triggered a review and possible update of your estate plan. If it did not, and in some cases even if it did, a recent announcement by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) should trigger a review.

What did the IRS say?

The agency recently announced that it is changing the federal estate and gift tax exemption amounts. In 2019, the federal estate and gift tax exemption amount was set at $11.4 million. In 2020, this amount will increase to $11.58 million.

What does this mean?

Essentially, this means those with an estate valued at up to $11.58 million for single or $23.16 million if married, can pass this estate to heirs without needing to pay a federal estate or gift tax.

The IRS has stated it will not attempt to apply taxes to lifetime gifts if the government chooses to lower the exemption rate in the future. A move that is often referred to as a “claw back.” As a result, it may be wise for some to make use of the $15,000 annual gift exclusion amounts. This allows individuals to gift up to $15,000 every year. These gifts can go to children, grandchildren, pretty much anyone.

It is important to note these changes impact federal tax obligations. Each estate plan may also be impacted by state estate tax obligations, depending on where the estate is located. An attorney experienced in these matters can review both the federal and state tax implications, if applicable, and provide guidance on the best way to maximize your estate.