Forbes has published Prepare for the Return of the Estate Tax, by Deborah L. Jacobs (lawyer, awarding winning journalist, author of Estate Planning Smarts). The synopsis of the article provides, “The federal estate tax is coming back, while some state levies never went away. Act now to protect your family's assets.”
There are three parts to the synopsis:
 “The federal estate tax is coming back.” Consensus among observes is that Congress will probably fail to reform the estate tax in 2010. For example, in What's the Skinny on the Estate Tax?(LawEasy.com, May 2010), Martin M. Shenkman writes that “[a]t this stage, nothing may happen until several months into 2011 and then we may just get an exclusion of $1-$3 million with no inflation indexing and a rate of 45-55%.”
 “[S]ome state levies never went away.” A June 9, 2010 Forbes article, by Ashlea Ebeling -- The State Estate Grab, 2010 Edition -- explains that “[l]ike the federal estate tax, state levies are in flux. As of mid-2010, 19 states imposed taxes on estates not left to a spouse or charity.” Ebeling’s article provides a very useful, color-coded and interactive map of the United States that tells (a) whether a state has an estate, inheritance, estate and inheritance tax, or no state death taxes at all; and (b) where applicable, the exemption amount and top tax rate.
 “Act now to protect your family's assets.” If the estate tax “will rise from the ashes on Jan. 1, 2011,” as it is scheduled to do; then the time “to protect your family’s assets” is indeed “now.” Jacobs explains why "[t]he prospect of a $1 million exemption means many more families need to plan for the federal tax:" "Tally up the value of a house, life insurance (if you are foolish enough to die owning it yourself), retirement and other accounts, and you may be surprised to find yours is one of them."
Jacobs’s article discusses the actions people can take now to protect their estates:
- Review life insurance policy ownership.
- Put some assets in your own name.
- Maximize annual gifts.
- Fund college savings plans.
- Pay tuition and medical expenses.
- Convert to a Roth IRA.
Jacobs is the author of Estate Planning Smarts: A Practical, User-Friendly, Action-Oriented Guide. This book would be profitably read by anyone who is curious about estate planning. Estate Planning Smarts will empower you because it explains difficult concepts in accessible language and because it provides useful checklists at the end of chapters.
Jacobs keeps readers current between editions of her book by issuing updates that can be downloaded from her book's website http://www.estateplanningsmarts.com/ and tweeting at http://twitter.com/djworking.