I have been receiving the same type of question from many clients lately. In each instance, the question centers around the activities of the government in spending more money than we have (and printing what it doesn't have!) and what that means for us on an ongoing basis. Every client of mine is aware of the current opportunity to use the five million dollar ($5,000,000.00) per person exemption to do advanced estate planning if the client's situation calls for it, but often in discussions the clients are nervous about whether this high exemption will continue to be in place for the rest of this year and next (currently set to reset to the one million dollar exemption level on 1/1/2013 unless congress acts to change the law before then). In upcoming blog posts we will be looking at some opportunities that high net worth individuals have by using the high exemption for this year, but my response to these clients who are nervous generally is always the same.
That response is that while the government has told us that we have the next two years to use this high exemption, I would not recommend that they wait until the end of 2012 to use the exemption if they need to do advanced planning. This is because it would be easy for the government to change the law for 2012 anytime before that calendar year starts (so think about a "compromise" at the end of this calendar year or anytime before then). If the government does change the exemption levels then people who would otherwise need to use the higher exemptions may not be able to do so if they wait until next year (especially since we do not know if any changes to these exemptions are on the table in any of these debt ceiling discussions). My recommendation to anyone reading this post is that you work with your existing planner NOW to determine if the exemption should be used this year in order to ensure that the planning can be done. When people allow the uncertainty to prevent them from doing the planning that they otherwise need to do, that leads to inaction and ultimately a poor or bad result for one's family. Do not let the media or the politicians convince you that it is sufficient to wait for "certainty" to happen. Create your own certainty by working with competent planners who can advise you on all of the issues that people are facing in today's world.