An Estate Planning Guide from BSSF

Since the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 made the current estate tax system permanent, a sense of stability does not mean you can ignore your estate plan. Life events such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, retirement, and health issues may have an effect on your existing plan. Year-end is an excellent time to revisit your estate plan. The process of reviewing the past year’s income and investments may bring to light new issues to consider.

If gifting is part of your plan, the annual excludable gift of $14,000 must be made by December 31, 2014. If the gift is made by check, it must clear your account by year end to count, so gifts made near year end should be made by certified check.

With same-sex marriage now recognized by the federal government and a growing number of states, including Pennsylvania, those married couples may want to review the plans they made before marriage recognition to take advantage of options not previously available. Unmarried couples need to take special care to choose the methods available for their situation. Single people may not have as many options for estate planning, but must still have a plan.

Whether you choose to use a will, a living trust, or a combination of both, you must have a written plan. No one wants the state’s intestate law to determine who gets their assets at death.

For many the estate tax exemption of $5.34 million for 2014 (double for a married couple) makes the tax part of estate planning a non-issue. Deciding who gets an inheritance, when, and in what form, becomes of greater importance. Having some control “beyond the grave” is important to others and can be achieved through the use of certain techniques.

As part of your estate planning team, BSSF can walk you through the steps needed to make those decisions and have confidence that your plan will be achieved. This is a first step in the estate planning process, and you must contact your estate attorney to decide what is best for you and put your plan in place.


Fred C. Phillipy, CPA


Fred is a Manager with Brown Schultz Sheridan & Fritz and provides tax, audit, review, and compilation services to a broad range of clients. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Elizabethtown College.