2015: The Year Trusts and Estates Goes Elder

A new year is upon us, and for those of us in the estate planning world it is time to define who we are and what we shall do in the coming months.

The modern concept of the American attorney who specializes in tax, trusts and estates dates back to 1913, the year the Sixteenth Amendment of our Constitution was ratified, allowing the federal government to tax people’s income. This was followed by the Revenue Act of 1916, allowing a “death tax” on people’s estates. For one hundred years the profession has concerned itself with using exemptions, loopholes and other transfer mechanisms focused primarily on maintaining intergenerational wealth by saving money on taxes.

For the umpteenth year in a row the US population is older than ever before. And the Federal government and New York state solidified estate tax exemptions high enough that the vast majority of people will now avoid any estate tax. In essence, tax savings will be yesterday’s news for the vast majority of Americans. And so:

For years I have predicted a seismic shift in the focus of the T&E world, and I can now say with certainty that the time has come. In 2015 we shall have fully entered the next phase of the defining hallmark of T&E attorneys: Transferring wealth to qualify for government programs relating to our medical and personal care. The terms “Elder Law” and “Medicaid Planning” shall finally be synonymous and interchangeable with “Estate Planning” and “Trusts and Estates”; the distinction shall be blurred beyond recognition.

And any T&E attorney not familiar with Medicaid planning will be forced into a corner, solely serving uber-wealthy clients or young individuals who have years ahead of them before meeting with lawyers reborn into this renewed profession.

May you live a long, healthy life and prepare for your living needs in a way that preserves your hard-earned life savings for those you love.

Q FOR YOU: When was the last time you spoke to your attorney, accountant and financial planner about recent tax laws and qualifying for Medicaid?

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