Erin Carlson, a tax partner at LLME, specializes in helping individuals, families and business entities navigate the complexities of estate and gift tax planning. Erin received her bachelor’s degree in economics before earning a law degree from Pepperdine University and Master of Laws at Boston University. She joined LLME in 2019 and expertly ensures clients are compliant with current tax laws and prepared for the future. We sat down to discuss her work, changes to estate tax laws and the importance of planning ahead. Here’s what Erin had to say:
Let’s dive in. Can you tell us about the situations you help clients navigate?
I predominately work with family groups. This means my clients are often parents who have a successful business or are high-net worth individuals who need help with estate and tax planning, setting up trusts or preparing to gift to lower generations. In such scenarios, I can work on the income tax returns for parents, children, the business and the trust while also preparing gift tax returns. Clients also turn to me when an individual passes away. I help navigate sensitive situations, including the preparation of estate tax returns and assisting surviving spouses and family members with their individual income tax and trust income tax returns.
Are there common questions you field, or common issues you see, in estate planning?
Right now, clients are mainly concerned about what will happen with the estate tax in 2026 and what actions they should take. As it currently stands, the estate tax exemption is $10,920,000, meaning a single person can pass away with this much wealth and not be subject to federal estate tax. However, the exemption is scheduled to drop to about $5,000,000 at the end of 2025. While we cannot predict what the legislature will do about this, we can advise clients to consider their gifting options. You can gift up to your full exemption during your life and there are lots of strategies that can be implemented by individuals that cover a variety of wealth and family facts and circumstances.
Is there anything else on the horizon that should be on people’s radar?
The estate tax exemption is the biggest one, but annual gifting recently changed too. The annual gift exclusion just went up to $17,000. Now, this means every individual can gift up to $17,000 per recipient each year without triggering any gift tax reporting requirements.
Do you have advice for someone starting their estate or after-death plan?
It’s important to set up an estate plan during life. Even if you don’t have an estate tax concern, it is important to decide where your assets will go when you pass away and how they will be administered. It is also important to keep the estate plan up to date and to have a team in place. We often work with attorneys in the planning and administration phases after a client has passed away.
You joined LLME a little over four years ago. Can you tell what initially drew you to the firm?
At the time, I was looking to make a move from the Los Angeles area to San Diego. I chose LLME because of their size, firm culture and opportunities to grow within the organization.
And now, what’s your favorite part about working with LLME?
I not only enjoy being able to train others but also being able to learn from all those around me.
Why did you choose a tax career, specifically in the estate, gift and fiduciary tax arena?
In undergrad, I realized I liked economics, accounting and tax. After completing my bachelor’s degree, a friend recommended that I go to law school, as he had, to study tax law. I did, and found I enjoyed estate planning. I’ve since stayed in this area of tax because I enjoy helping families plan and supporting them through sensitive times as they navigate the tax side of a family member passing away.
What’s one thing your clients would be surprised to know about you?
I ran the Carlsbad half marathon in 2019!
Summer is right around the corner! Do you have any fun plans?
Hoping to take a trip to Washington D.C. with my son.