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News | February 12, 2015
2 minute read

Jim Steffel Presents 2015 Estate Planning Update

A proposed increase in the federal capital gains tax and ongoing federal and state efforts to levy more wealth transfer taxes would have a significant impact on ultra-wealthy families, said James J. Steffel, chairman of the Family Offices Industry Group at Warner Norcross & Judd.

In January, Steffel co-presented a 2015 Estate Planning Update webinar for wealthy individuals and family office advisors who manage their assets. His webinar was hosted by the Family Office Exchange (FOX), the world’s largest membership-based network for ultra-wealthy families and their family offices and a leading authority on matters related to legacy wealth management.

President Obama has proposed increasing the federal capital gains tax from 23 percent to 28 percent, while eliminating the step-up in basis that presently occurs at death. Republicans in Congress have reintroduced two bills that would eliminate the federal estate tax.

Meanwhile, 20 states currently have some type of estate tax and 21 states have gift taxes. Given the possible changes in estate and gift taxes, Steffel said monitoring, updating and maintaining flexibility in all estate planning documentation is paramount.   

Several wealth transfer programs currently allow even the wealthiest families to minimize taxes while transferring wealth, but Steffel said many of those strategies are underutilized. “We can help most families significantly reduce both tax and operational burdens through the creation of a state-of-the-art estate plan,” he said.

Strategies and issues that Steffel addressed at the Family Office Exchange’s 2015 Estate Planning Update webinar included:

  • The use of Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs) and sales to an Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts (IDGT) 
  • The use of private annuities and self-cancelling installment notes (SCINs)
  • The development of value definition clauses for hard to value assets
  • The importance of quality valuations and appraisals
  • The Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act regulations
  • The importance of and complications regarding trustee succession, powers of appointment and trust protectors.
  • Developments regarding digital assets and accounts    

For more information on these issues, contact Steffel at 616.752.2621 or