Death and Taxes — 2010 and Beyond

By J.C. Bailey, III

You may have heard the saying that the only things you can count on in this world are death and taxes. April 15th is our yearly reminder of the inevitability of taxes. It may be true that we only die once, but we get to experience the impact of taxation throughout our lives. The myriad types of taxes and the numerous tax deadlines make tax advice, planning and preparation a year-round and highly complex business. Taxes can be especially complicated with regard to estate and probate issues. Bad information and fear-mongering are prevalent and frequently cause people to make costly decisions without consulting with a lawyer or advisor.

It is tempting to believe that because you can read instructions and use a calculator you can handle all your tax issues. This delusion has become more prevalent with the advent of the Internet and computer tax filing software. But the vast majority of us will need help at some point. Even if you have never needed help with taxes in the past, major life transitions can require professional expertise. Whether you have started a business, retired, moved, lost a loved one, changed jobs or come into a windfall, you need to consult with an expert. The Bottom Line: YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW!

The year 2010 is a great example of why taxpayers need professional advice. A volatile economy and the total phaseout of the federal estate tax have offered more questions than answers. Congress has not dealt with how the estate tax will be imposed for 2011 and beyond. For estate planners, this situation presents opportunities, but it may mislead the public into thinking the issue has been resolved. Stay tuned for the results of legislation regarding the federal estate tax and how to adjust your plans to take advantage of the new law.


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