Harold, an advisor in Pittsburgh, is at a golf outing, and his golfing partner's friend-a widow worth $20 million-asks the advisor what he thinks about the double jeopardy of this year's gift-tax-planning loophole.
"So, Harold, my advisor at Dewey, Cheatham tells me that I should make a gift of $4 million to my children and grandchildren this year on December 31," says the 76-year-old matriarch of a family fortune. "What do you think?"
The advisor looks at the woman and says, "I honestly have no idea what you're talking about."
Rest assured, readers of The Gluck Report, that I will not let you suffer such an embarrassing fate. Not on my watch!
It is now mandatory for an advisor to be conversant with the problems of the super-rich. It doesn't matter that most advisors do not work with ultra-high-net-worth individuals, that this rarified market represents less than 1% of Americans, or that this is one of the most technically complex aspects of wealth management. Despite all this, there is no excuse for an advisor to be unable to speak intelligently about the current estate-planning imbroglio.
If you don't know about the gift planning opportunity on December 31, then you're not keeping up with what you need to advise ultra-high-net-worth individuals. You don't deserve their trust or their business, and you are writing off a profitable and intellectually rewarding niche of the wealth management business. And that makes no sense!
Most advisors depend on referrals and word-of-mouth to get new clients. What if a client introduces you to an ultra-high-net-worth friend? What if you're at a cocktail party or golf outing and are asked a question about the most pressing wealth management issue affecting the ultra-wealthy right now? You are sure to blow such opportunities unless you know about the current trends in estate and gift planning. Even though it's convoluted, you need to know about it.
So I interviewed one of my best sources on estate planning, New York attorney Gideon Rothschild of Moses & Singer LLP, and he painstakingly explained the current dynamic and year-end opportunities. Here's the story:
Estate planning has been as dysfunctional as Congress for the last several years, but the havoc is coming to a head, and rich people have a messy estate-planning situation to deal with over the next two months.
The ultra-wealthy-people with a net worth of about $5 million and up-have incentive to make gifts on the very last day of the year. They can pay 35% in gift taxes to Uncle Sam instead of much higher estate-tax rates.