- Gifting: Year end is a good time to make exempt gifts; the current annual gift limit is $14,000 per donor per person, with a lifetime exemption of $5.49 million. Another gifting strategy that often gets overlooked is that gifts made for tuition, medical expenses and medical insurance are exempt from gift tax, as long as they are paid directly to the provider (such as the school, doctor or insurance company).
- Beneficiary reviews: Reviewing all beneficiary statements for 401k plans, IRAs, and life insurance policies is important, since retirement account assets and life insurance policies pass by beneficiary statement and not by will. Many estate planning attorneys have stories of clients who divorce and never revise their beneficiary statements; the client dies and a life insurance policy or 401k plan is paid to the ex-spouse, leaving a current spouse or children with nothing.
- Medical expenses: December is a good time to schedule doctors’ appointments instead of waiting until January when expenses will be subject to a new deductible. Those with Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) need to spend those dollars prior to year-end. (Some plans offer options for carrying over up to $500 to use the following year.)
- Concentrated or low-basis securities: Making charitable contributions using concentrated or low-basis securities rather than cash may offer two advantages. First, donating appreciated property to most qualified charities avoids capital gains taxes on the appreciation. Second, it allows a tax efficient way to diversify concentrated or low basis positions. The current deduction for donating appreciated property to most charities is limited to 50% of adjusted gross income (AGI).
- Prepare for potential tax law changes: Though nothing is certain at this point, many experts are encouraging we take certain actions now in preparation for looming changes coming in 2018. These include prepaying local property taxes, taking as many deductions as possible, deferring pass-through income, and considering selling shares of certain stock. You can read more in this article from ThinkAdvisor.
Initiating conversations on topics like these can help deepen your relationships, and presents a great opportunity to have proactive discussions with their CPAs, attorneys, and other related professionals. And remember, you can always use this editable LifeMap to illustrate the many ways you can help your clients and those they care about.