Jan 23, 2012

My client who left it all to the IRS (and not by mistake)

I'll get to my client's story in a moment. Let's first look at how Americans feel about taxes. You might think you know the answer, but surprisingly, a Pew Research Center survey back in December revealed that over half of Americans think that what they pay in taxes is "about right." People are not so much distressed over their personal tax burden as by the idea that the wealthy don't pay their fair share. More than half the respondents said the tax system is unfair and believe Congress should scrap the current system and create a new one. 

These results mirror what I hear from my estate planning clients. Sure, they don't exactly enjoy paying taxes, but they're willing to pony up their fair share. So I help them dot every "i" and cross every "t" so they don't needlessly pay any more than required. For my middle class clients, taxes are but one issue in an array of concerns, which includes minimizing disruption to their families if the event of death or disability, avoiding probate, etc.

Now to the client who is the subject of this post:  I had the privilege of representing Maria Woods for many years. She always brought home-baked goodies to my office, which we enjoyed as we discussed life, her views, her money, her estate planning goals. She was a German immigrant who felt profoundly grateful to the United States. Throughout our discussions, she remained steadfast in her desire to leave her entire estate to her adopted country. When she died in 2004, that's exactly what happened. 

Of course you'll still want to plan to minimize your estate taxes and other taxes. Naturally, you'll still feel the pinch. But Ms. Woods' inspiring story may just take a bit of the sting out of the process.  Read her story here. 

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