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Spouses May Be Left Pennyless

The estate tax expired on January 1,
2010. It remains to be seen whether Congress will reinstate it before
it returns in 2011, but the fact that there is currently no estate tax
can have unintended consequences for spouses. Standard language found
in many estate plans may leave spouses with nothing. It is important
to check with an estate planning attorney to make sure
your estate plan does what you want it to do.In
previous years, estates could pass a certain amount of assets tax free
(up to $3.5 million in 2009). In addition, spouses can receive an
unlimited amount tax free. To take advantage of these rules, estate
plans often contain a "bypass trust" (or "credit shelter trust") and a
will with language in it that is designed to allow estates to pass
without any estate tax. For example, the will may state: "I leave to my
trustees the maximum amount that can pass free of estate tax and leave
the residual to my spouse." Because there is currently no estate tax,
individuals who die in 2010 with this language in their estate plan
would wind up leaving nothing to their spouses.
While Mississippi allows spouses to claim a child's share of the estate even if they don't receive anything under a will, this can
be a time-consuming and expensive process. Additionally, for estates planned with living trusts, such an election against the will may not be available at all.  To ensure
this does not happen to your spouse you should talk to an estate planning attorney. 

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