The looming fiscal cliff has estate planners busier than ever before.
If no compromise comes before the New Year, any inheritance exceeding $1,000,000 would be taxed at 55 percent and planners say many people could be surprised to find out they fall into that category.
"It's difficult to tell someone what is specifically going to be best for them when you don't know what the rules will be," Ian McAbeer with Blackshaw Wealth Management said.
McAbeer says a large number of his clients fall into a gray area.
These are couples with between one and 20 million dollars in assets who hope to pass on as much as they can to the heirs after they die.
"Ten million of that might be illiquid,” McAbeer said. “Another $10 million may be in stocks and bonds and so forth. If that couple is only 50 years old, it's a difficult conversation."
Justin Jacobs with Avondale Wealth Management says taxation is never going to be as favorable as it is now which has made December the busiest month of his career.
"Getting them to act on that actually hasn't been very difficult. I think most people are eager to put something in place knowing this is a more favorable time to do it," Jacobs said.
But estate attorney Brad Wiewel says acting now is a little late. No new trusts will be able to be in place until early next year.
"People that are on the fence--some are jumping, some are staying. It just depends," Wiewel said.
Wiewel says the uncertainty this year is greater than years past because the change can be so great.
In 2010, lawmakers struck a deal Dec. 17 that removed any estate tax for that year and set a cap of $5,000,000 for estates in 2011.
"We think whatever happens this year--whatever we do for our clients this year--will stick,” Wiewel said. “Next year, if they pass a law maybe in February or March, they will probably retroactive that to Jan. 1."
Wiewel says any compromise struck by Congress could phase in higher taxes over several years. If that's the case, he says it's still a good time for couples to review how they plan to divvy up assets.