Law Offices Of Thomas Sciacca, PLLC


2019 Trusts & Estates Updates

what's new?

{Read in 4 minutes} As a T&E attorney, I always think of the practice area as an old one. The concept of someone writing a Will and leaving assets to next of kin or other beneficiaries is one of the oldest in recorded history. The thing that I love about the law, and about this practice area in particular, is that it is constantly evolving. So, what happened in 2019 that was notable to this T&E practitioner and his clients?

– Small Estates now defined as up to $50k. The Surrogate’s Court handles all matters related to the affairs of the deceased. When someone dies either with or without a Will, the Court will issue Letters to either the Executor named in the Will or a close relative when one dies intestate.

Sometimes, the value of assets payable to the Estate may be very small — especially if the deceased already named their desired beneficiary/beneficiaries on various beneficiary designation forms, or substantially held their assets jointly/payable-upon-death with those beneficiaries. Rather than commence a full-blown proceeding to appoint an Administrator or Executor, the Court can entertain a small estate proceeding (known formally as a Voluntary Administration Proceeding) without many of the usual requirements when the value of the assets payable to the Estate is below a certain amount. 

Up until recently, that amount was $30,000.00; effective November 2019, New York law provides that these expedited proceedings are now available when that amount is less than or equal to $50,000.00. While probate in New York has always been expedient compared to other States, this increase makes things even easier and allows the Court to accommodate more people with lower-value probate Estates. 

Voluntary Administration is even more attractive to the constituents the Courts serve because many people choose to handle the proceeding without an attorney, as the Court offers fill-in-the-blank forms on their website.

– New estate tax applicable exclusion amounts for 2020. On the other end of the dollar spectrum, the estate tax is a tax on all assets that pass hands by reason of one’s death.

Everyone is allowed an exemption amount that permits passing up to a certain amount without paying any estate taxes — this amount is known as the applicable exclusion amount. Generally, the applicable exclusion amount increases annually. Since 2011, this amount has grown to a figure where most Estates will not face any estate tax liability, and has recently expanded to even larger exclusions/exemptions. So what are the new figures?

– For purposes of the federal estate tax, the annual exclusion amount for those dying in 2019 is $11.4 million, increasing to $11.58 million on January 1, 2020.

– For purposes of the New York State estate tax, the annual exclusion amount for those dying in 2019 is $5.49 million, increasing to $5.85 million on January 1, 2020. 

If you have a taxable estate for purposes of either the federal or New York State estate tax, it’s advisable to review your Will with an attorney and see if revisions could be advantageous to you.

For more information on the topics I discuss in these blog entries, please contact me.