D EAR HARRY: When I retired a few years ago, we retained a lawyer to prepare a living will and living trust in order to avoid probate. Virtually all of our assets other than our home are in tax-sheltered accounts (IRAs, etc.). The lawyer also prepared a bypass trust to protect us from the estate tax. With all the hullabaloo about the cliff at the end of 2012, we have been wondering what to do. Do we leave things as they are and assume that the tax changes won't affect us? With the increased exemptions over the last decade, we just let things ride, forgetting about the drop in exemptions scheduled for Jan. 1. Our combined estate is worth a bit more than $2 million, with little prospect for an increase.
WHAT HARRY SAYS: Trying to guess what the Congress will do regarding taxes is as tough as winning the lottery. At this moment, you seem to be more than covered. I see absolutely no reason to move now. Let's wait to see what effect any new laws and later regulations will have on your situation. It may well be that your will can be made simpler. This will mean a saving in estate-operation costs, because trusts do have expenses. Here's my guess as to what will happen: We'll be in approximately the position we were in before the cliff.