See an attorney

First off, if you have an estate plan now, whether it be a will or living trust, and you haven't updated it in a while, you should see an attorney for a review of your plan. Chances are, your plan does not have contingencies built into it to make sure that whatever Congres does, your plan minimizes taxes to the maximum extent possible.


Make sure your attorney is discussing different options with you

There is no perfect solution to the dilemma of Congress providing mixed signals on the estate tax, and the estate tax being in limbo. Your qualified estate planning should discuss several options on how to plan, such as whether to use certain types of trusts, add language in to give the trustee more power to set up different trusts upon your passing so that you minimize the tax, etc.


Keep your estate plan updated

Get your plan updated now, but don't put it away for 5 or 10 years. Take a look at it again in 2011, when most estate planning attorneys believe that the estate tax issue will likely be settled again.


The estate tax today

As of this legal guide publication, there is no federal estate tax for the year of 2010. However, Congress could possibly pass a retroactive law to change that (and there is already talk of a Supreme Court challenge on this). Also, remember that your state may have an estate or inheritance tax. For instance, Pennsylvania has an inheritance tax. The Pennsylvania inheritance tax is 0% for property passed onto spouses, 4.5% for property passed onto your lineal descendants, and 12% for property passing to your siblings. For every one else you pass property onto, 15% is the rate. Check with your individual state for more information.