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:
Estate Planning can be confusing and even intimidating to most people. They do not deal with the issues regularly, so the terms and concepts can be confusing. Most estate planners are not helpful, as discussed in our October 2008 visit (available on the web site archive). They are not adept at simplifying and explaining concepts. […]
A little-known provision of the estate tax can save quite a bit of taxes for estates of those who passed away in late 2007 or the first part of 2008. The estate tax is based on the value of the estate assets, normally the value on the date of the owner’s death. The executor, however, […]
Few things amaze estate planners more than the property heirs choose to fight over. The worst disputes often seem to occur over items that most outsiders consider trivial. Furniture, personal mementoes, and the like seem to trigger emotional reactions in heirs. Sometimes an heir simply is looking for an excuse to vent a long-held grievance; […]
Most discussions of Estate Planning, including in this newsletter, focus on discrete topics and strategies. Once in a while, especially early in the year, it is good idea to step back and look at the broader picture. There are concepts and strategies common to every estate plan and estate owner. Use these concepts and strategies […]
Home prices are down, and inventories of unsold homes are high in many areas. That makes this an ideal time to buy a home, or to help a grandchild buy that first home or move up to a larger home. Despite the decline in prices, buying a home still is a struggle for many young […]
Readers with homes or other property in more than one state should take special care in their estate plans. There are lawyers who advise drafting separate wills and other Estate Planning documents for each state involved. You shouldn’t need to do that much work. The estate plan, however, does need to recognize that multiple states […]
Estate Planning is coming back on radar screens. Uncertainty over the direction of estate taxes and the probability that the estate tax would be eliminated caused many people to ignore their plans the last few years. They did not want to spend time and money on a plan that might be unnecessary or need major […]
Estate Planning need not be as complicated as many people make it. Sophisticated tools are needed by the very wealthy, business owners, those with children from more than one marriage, and others with special needs. For most of us, a good estate plan is fairly straightforward. We need only the basics. Most estate plans can […]