Myth 1: Estate Law Stays the Same

By Jonathan Williams

As many of you know, in November we held our annual client seminar, and one of the purposes of that event is to help keep our current and former clients informed about how the law changes over time. To that end, each year we reserve a segment of the presentation to focus specifically on that subject. This year, we discussed a variety of topics including law changes relating to digital assets, guardianship, charitable giving, and gift and estate taxation.

Digital Assets
Digital assets include e-mail accounts, personal websites, social media accounts, online services, blogs, photo sharing websites, and the like. This past year, North Carolina enacted a law that allows individuals to grant to their attorneys-in-fact, executors, and/or trustees the authority to access and manage such assets in the event of incapacity or death. If these kinds of assets are an important part of your legacy, we can help you update your documents as the law now allows.

Guardianship
North Carolina passed an update to its guardianship laws relating to jurisdiction, making it easier to, among other things: 1) determine which is the proper state to adjudicate incompetency and guardianship; 2) move a guardianship from another state to North Carolina; and 3) recognize the authority of a guardian who was appointed in another state but wishes to conduct business in North Carolina.

Charitable Giving
Late in 2015, the United States Congress enacted a law restoring the IRA charitable exclusion rule, which allows charitable distributions from IRAs of up to $100,000 from a donor of age 70.5 or older, which is then excluded from gross income.

Gift and Estate Taxation
IRS has published new rules—yet to come into effect—that will limit the ability of a taxpayer to discount the value of an asset given away as part of a family partnership or closely held business for gift tax purposes. If that kind of gifting strategy is part of your plan to reduce exposure to estate taxes, please see us immediately, for we expect the new rules to go into effect in early 2017.

Conclusion
We advise that former clients revisit their estate planning with us every 4-5 years, partly because clients’ circumstances and goals can change, but also because the law can and does change. Certainly, if any of these topics impacts your estate plan in a significant way, it will be important that you see us to review your matter sooner rather than later.

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