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Estate Planning Basics

Estate Planning at its most basic is the process of determining how your wealth and assets should be transferred to the heirs of your choice: your children, grandchildren, friends, families, charitable causes, etc. and then deciding which legal tools and structures to use to best meet your basic estate planning goals.

Estate planning is not simply reducing or eliminating taxes and avoiding probate.  Only after establishing how you want your estate’s assets to be distributed should you consider ways to reduce taxes and avoid probate. From there, good estate plans deal with a host of other issues. Now, with all but a few estates exempt from the federal estate tax, those other issues are, or should be, at the forefront of estate planning.

An estate plan is to ensure that you are taken care of the rest of your life and that your wealth is transferred to the people you want to have it. A good estate plan ensures these goals are accomplished with as much efficiency and as little cost as possible. An estate plan addresses the management and distribution of an individual’s property and financial obligations after he or she dies with financial tools such as wills, revocable living trusts and power of attorney.

For a comprehensive overview of Estate Planning Basics, please start with our article:

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estate planning

Avoiding the Estate Planning Personal Property Molehill-to-Mountain Track

January 1, 2013

Small items often cause the biggest Estate Planning problems. Anyone experienced with estates knows the worst disputes among heirs often are over what seem like trivial items. Even in a large estate, heirs might aggressively contest the disposition of a few pieces of furniture or personal mementos. Those small, personal items are the most likely […]

estate planning

The Really Personal Issues of Estate Planning

December 1, 2012

Estate Planning discussions often are mostly about wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and the different clauses and terms that could be contained in each. The point to all the strategies and technical discussions often is lost. That point, or points, should be the subject of the early discussions in the estate planning process, and it […]

estate planning

10 Basic Estate Planning Rules for Every Plan

July 1, 2012

The estate and gift tax law has been shifting and uncertain for more than 10 years, and what it will be after 2012 is uncertain. You know the deal reached at the end of 2010 is scheduled to expire Dec. 31, 2012. If Congress does nothing, we’ll revert to the 2001 law, which includes only […]

What Happens to Your Debts on Death?

January 5, 2012

There’s been a lot of attention lately to the issue of what happens to a person’s debts after he dies. It seems there are firms that specialize in collecting the debts of the deceased, often by telling survivors they need to pay and often by not being completely honest. We’ll have more detail in a […]

Finding Your Classic Estate Plan

June 1, 2011

Every estate is unique, but each estate can be put in a category with similar estates. Those similar estates are likely to have plans that share a number of common features. So, in this visit we present the classic categories and key elements of plans that fall into those categories. All estate plans. Every plan […]

The New Focus on Estate Planning Beyond Just Taxes

April 1, 2011

Estate Planning isn’t dead, not by a long shot. Traditionally, for many people estate planning means estate tax reduction. They figure if their estates aren’t going to be hit with federal estate taxes, they don’t need a plan. Now, with estates up to $5 million ($10 million for married couples) exempt from the federal estate […]

Updating Estate Plans for the New Tax Law

February 1, 2011

It’s time to pull out your estate plan, make an appointment with your planner, and begin a thorough review. Congress finally pass-ed a new estate tax last December, and each of us should revise our wills and other documents to reflect the changes. The changes are only for 2011 and 2012, but you need to […]

estate planning

Why Estate Planning Details are Important: Debts and Estate Taxes

September 1, 2009

I regularly remind readers about the nitty gritty details of Estate Planning?stating who pays debts and taxes, ensuring whether the estate will have enough cash, and appointing executors and trustees. These are not as exciting as the issues that are most discussed, such as tax reduction strategies, but these are the key issues that determine […]

October 2021:
Congress Comes for your Retirement Money
A devastating new law has just been enacted, with serious consequences for anyone holding an IRA, pension, or 401(k). Fortunately, there are still steps you can take to sidestep Congress, starting with this ONE SIMPLE MOVE.

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