As summer fades in the rear-view mirror, it’s a good time to give yourself a reality check: Clients never have enough time to meet for year-end planning during the busy holiday season (and you might not, either), which is why you should be proactive and meet with them now — even if it seems too early to do so.
Working as a team
Comprehensive and effective year-end planning must include your client’s entire financial team. That means working closely with their CPAs and with us, as their estate planning attorneys, to make sure they’re getting the greatest benefit from any strategic moves. That’s especially true this year, as we’ve all been waiting to see what Congress and President Trump do with tax reform, healthcare reform, and other parts of their agenda.
When you contact your clients about getting a head start on year-end planning, you’ll likely be going over the best ways to close transactions, harvest gains, ensure documents are up-to-date, complete funding or asset alignment cleanup, and double-check beneficiary designations. While each of these steps is important in its own right, the process isn’t complete until you’ve checked with us to make sure everything is up-to-date on our end, too.
Luckily, it’s easy to see if a plan is up-to-date as there’s typically no need to read the entire trust or will. Instead, you and your clients can review the plan diagram or text summary. If the trustees, beneficiaries, assets, and other details look right, then a quick check-in call to our office might be all that’s needed. But, a divorce, birth or death in the family, change in wealth or income, or even just a change in a client’s wishes can all be reasons to overhaul an existing plan. And, we definitely need to talk with anyone who still doesn’t have a will or trust.
IRS Revenue Procedure 2017-34
Confusion about deadlines, filing requirements, and other aspects of portability for the estate tax exemption have resulted in the IRS’s new simplified procedure, Revenue Procedure 2017-34. But, the clock is ticking on the ability to port the estate tax exemption from one spouse to another for late filers. Your clients who might benefit from a “late” portability election may only have until January 2, 2018 to take advantage of this extended window. This is particularly important in situations where the first spouse died without a taxable estate, but where the surviving spouse’s estate may be subject to estate tax.
Your clients may not realize that they can find estate tax relief through this simplified IRS procedure. Under this new procedure, the IRS deadline is January 2, 2018 or two years after the death of the first-to-die spouse, whichever is later. Any client who lost a spouse on or after January 1, 2011, when portability first became available, should at least consider whether it makes sense for them. This is a great time to loop us in so we can collaborate for your clients’ best interests while the opportunity still exists.
Don’t put off what you can do today
Get your clients scheduled now to do a year-end planning analysis so we can work as a team to review tax, investment, and legal opportunities that create client value and build long-lasting client relationships.
Act now, because the holiday season (which always comes sooner than you think) makes it challenging to get clients to visit and still have enough time to complete any needed work. Your clients will thank you for getting their year-end planning out of the way early, so they can enjoy the holiday season knowing their finances and estate plans are in good hands. If we can be of service to you or your clients, give us a call today. We’re always here to help.