Rarely in the past 30 years has Congress made any significant changes to the basic laws of estate planning. But recently they did. As the estate tax law applies to spouses, it used to be common to set up an irrevocable trust(often referred to as a Bypass, Decedent’s or Exemption Trust) on the death of the first spouse to protect that spouse’s credit against estate taxes. This is no longer necessary. The representative of the first spouse to die (normally the surviving spouse) may now make an election on the predeceasing spouse’s Estate Tax Return to transfer to the surviving spouse any unused estate tax credit of the spouse that died. Many spouses now elect to avoid setting up an irrevocable trust on the first death as such requires annual tax returns, some administrative costs are incurred, and inflexibility for the surviving spouse exists.
All spouses that prepared their estate plans prior to 2015 should check with their estate planning attorney to determine whether it makes sense to revise their planning to eliminate the necessity of creating an irrevocable trust on the first death.
If you need any help with creating or modifying a trust, or have a question whether this new estate tax law effects your estate plan, please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Chauvel & Glatt.