In general, retirement plan assets, such as IRAs and 401k accounts, pass by beneficiary designation and are not controlled by the account owner’s Last Will. Therefore, if your retirement plan assets are a large part of your net worth and you are married, you may need to take steps to ensure the value of those assets is available to fund a “credit shelter trust” or “exemption trust” under your Will, in order to fully capture the first deceased spouse’s estate tax exemption. Full funding of such a trust is recommended for estate tax savings because, even though we currently have portability of the federal exemption between spouses, there is no portability under the Washington estate tax law. Further, unless Congress changes federal law, spousal portability will not be available after 2012. We recommend you speak to your professional advisor to make sure your beneficiary designations are consistent with your estate planning goals.
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