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Estate Planning in the Face of Uncertainty

Ryan P. Laughlin, CPA, MST, JD, AEP®
Wipfli, LLP
Green Bay, WI

Early last March, our family cancelled a weekend getaway at the very last moment – the car was already packed, and the kids were in their seats. Our plans suddenly changed due to some worrisome news spreading across the country – something called COVID-19. Later that same day, our Governor issued a stay-at-home order. Little did we know that life would never be the same. The virus was clearly not the only historical or memorable event in 2020, a year that no one will ever forget. Change came fast and furious, whether you were prepared or not.

As estate planners, we face constant change and uncertainty. For example, what will the Democrats do in Washington? Will the tax laws change now, next year, after the next election or via legislative “sunset” in 2026? How will government stimulus and relief packages impact our clients’ families, businesses, communities, and non-profits? What will our own industries and organizations look like in the future as a result of all the change? If I listed all the uncertainties, this column would never end!

Fortunately, our profession is no stranger to change. For example, many of us have actually witnessed and can explain a “sunset” to our clients who think it’s new or not real. Although specific estate planning tools and strategies change each year, many core values and principles of estate planning do not. The content in this issue of the NAEPC Journal of Estate and Tax Planning shows that while some things always change and require adaptation, some never do and require adherence. The material includes timely and hard-hitting content about current topics and possible changes ahead. The material also includes timeless reminders that our client’s goals and objectives always come first, regardless of their net worth or tax picture.

I wish to close by expressing my sincere thanks and gratitude to Susan P. Rounds, JD, CPA, LL.M. (taxation), AEP®, TEP for her significant contributions to this publication as Editor and Chair of the Publications committee; and for her service to NAEPC as a member of the Board of Directors. In March 2016, Susan authored a column that referenced the “Masters Among Us.” The Masters she referred to included NAEPC Hall of Fame members, our wonderful AEPs, and the industry members that contribute to this Journal. Many of these individuals still contribute to the Journal, including this issue. Susan truly elevated the practice of estate planning through her career and tenure with NAEPC. She must be considered a Master herself. On behalf of NAEPC and its leadership, we wish Susan the best in her future endeavors and thank her again for her tireless leadership over the years.

Happy Reading!

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