Anne Ruffer is Chair of the Community Foundation’s Professional Advisor Council. She wrote this article for the winter edition of Smart Money, a publication of the Central New York Community Foundation, to give some guidance on incorporating charitable giving into estate plans.
In 2010, the Central New York Community Foundation commissioned a study on wealth transfer. It found that over the next decade, local individuals in our five-county region will determine the distribution of an unprecedented $22 billion after they pass away. The Community Foundation’s Professional Advisor Council has discussed ways to raise awareness and motivate our charitable community to retain part of this wealth transfer.
Now that you are finally getting around to having your Will prepared or updated, or even considering adding a Revocable Trust to your planning documents, it is also important to plan for those assets that are subject to a document commonly referred to as a beneficiary designation form. Most commonly, my clients inquire: Doesn’t my Will take care of these assets as well? The answer is “no.” Although in some cases you may desire that those assets be directed to your estate so that they pass through your Will, or even a trust you have created, you must do something to make that happen. That something is done through your beneficiary designation forms. This is of the utmost importance because the assets that pass by beneficiary designation may very well comprise a large percentage of your total assets.
You may have heard that New Yorkers may be subject to an estate tax depending on the value of their estate when they die. You may also have heard some buzz about recent changes to New York’s estate tax law that sounds favorable to New Yorkers…favorable meaning less tax owed.
What is an estate tax? An estate tax is a tax on the transfer of assets after you die based upon the value of those assets. An estate tax is separate and distinct from income tax. It is, in a sense, a transfer tax. An estate tax will likely include some property on which you have already paid income tax. Moreover, an estate tax is assessed against you (or more accurately, your estate) once you are no longer with us.