Death and Taxes Not Such Sure Things for Affluent Americans

Despite worries about estate taxes, many Americans with significant savings have not taken adequate steps to plan their estate.

A new survey from The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., indicates affluent Americans, especially those with more than $2 million in net worth, are more concerned than a year ago about their families having to surrender significant chunks of an estate to federal taxes. However, nearly 40% have not taken any steps to plan their estates, and one in three said they do not know where to start.

Estate tax concerns rose in proportion to survey respondents’ savings, according to a press release about the survey results. Compared to the average 49% who expressed greater concern than a year ago about the estate tax, 56% of those with more than $2 million in assets and 73% of Americans with $5 million or more in assets said their fears were rising.

Top causes of concern cited by respondents were: increase in their net worth (65%), the growing federal budget deficit that might imperil any estate tax cuts (47%), and a sense that the new Congress is less likely to repeal or reform the tax (41%).

A majority of those surveyed (54%) indicated they had taken steps to plan their estate, but a large number (37%) indicated they had not, the release said. The survey found 34.3% were unsure about where to start and approximately half had not yet found the time to put their estate in order.

Of those surveyed who had begun to plan their estate:
• 81% had written a will,
• 68% had talked to family members about their intentions,
• 63% had created a Power of Attorney or Living Will,
• 51% had created a Living Trust,
• 40% had purchased life insurance for estate liquidity or to pay estate taxes,
• 22% had created an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust, and
• In planning their estate, 74% worked with an attorney, 47% worked with an accountant, and 28% worked with an insurance agent.

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