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Indiana's inheritance tax phasing out

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The Indiana Legislature passed a law during the 2012 session that will gradually phase out the state’s inheritance tax by allowing a credit against the amount of taxes owed.

The initial credit, beginning on July 1, will be 10 percent in 2013 and will increase by 10 percent each fiscal year, reaching 90 percent in 2021, and 100 percent in 2022. The new law also expands the definition of a Class A transferee to include the spouse, widow or widower of the transferor’s child or stepchild. That means people included in the expanded transferee category will be entitled to the same exemptions and lower tax rates that a transferor’s children enjoy.

R.J. McConnell, a partner at Bose McKinney & Evans who is also a member of the estate and wealth management group, explained that the expanded Class A category won’t necessarily change how people plan their estates overall, but it may be important for some families.

mcconnell McConnell

“The good news is, if a family wants to leave money and treat kids and stepchildren the same, they not only receive the same treatment from their parents, but they receive the same treatment from the government,” McConnell said. “I think it’s a wonderful remedy, in the interest of fairness.”

Benefits for those left behind

Beginning this year, the exemption for Class A beneficiaries was raised to $250,000, meaning that each child of a transferee can inherit $250,000 tax-free.

So far, clients aren’t banging at the door to revise their estate plans based on the changes in Indiana law.

Jeanne Longsworth, of the Fort Wayne firm Longsworth Law, concentrates her practice on wealth transfer, estate planning and associated areas of law.

“It’s way too early. I don’t think the general population understands what the phase-out is … the phase-out is over a nine-year period of time,” she said. “I haven’t had anybody coming in and saying, ‘Let’s rethink this.’”

She said that the most present concern for her clients is the federal estate tax.

“I would say for the majority of clients I work with, the federal tax is the really burdensome one because of the rates,” she said.

Currently, federal law taxes estates at 35 percent, with the first $5 million exempt from taxation. But that is likely to change soon.

“All that goes out the window on January 1 if Congress doesn’t do something,” McConnell said. Without intervention, the exempt amount will be $1 million, and the tax rate will revert to 55 percent, as it was in 2001.

“It’s a train wreck – particularly for families with illiquid assets like farmland or businesses,” McConnell said. “The $5 million exempts from tax 98.5 percent of all Americans. But there are a lot of families whose estate, whose business, whose farm ground is exempt from tax today, but would be subject to tax in January if the exemption goes down to $1 million. It would just be a huge unfairness.”

Protecting assets from penalties

The fact that 2012 is an election year causes further questions about whether the federal estate tax law may change. Some wealthy parents are therefore choosing to make lifetime gifts to their beneficiaries this year rather than run the risk that their estates will be subject to a much higher tax rate in the future. This year, the gift tax exemption is $5 million.

McConnell said the concept of portability will also disappear in 2013 without legislative intervention.

“Portability says that if you don’t use the entire exemption in the estate of the first to die, it’s portable and can be used in the second estate – meaning, that if dad did nothing, mom would have $10 million of exemption portability.”

That means that the mother would then be able to pass on to her children that entire $10 million tax-free.

Before the change in Indiana’s inheritance tax law, families leaving property to heirs had to weigh the pros and cons of paying inheritance tax early, at a lower rate, or risking a greater tax penalty for heirs, should the property continue to go up in value. Now, knowing that the inheritance tax is fading away, that’s no longer a concern.

“It’s basically kicking the can down the road until presumably the tax is gone,” McConnell said.•

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  • unnecessary
    This was an unnecessary change in law, a needless fiddling with a tax that impacted very very few hoosiers, but one that erodes a tax base benefitting very many hoosiers. Just because some people wanted to chalk up a "tax cut" on their legislative brag-list, and didnt give a fig about replacing the revenue any other way. Really stupid. I am a republican my whole life and this just shames me like hell. I have to use a fake name over this because I know my fellow republicans are all brain washed over tax cutting too.

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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