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:
Every estate is different. Even your next door neighbor or colleague at work is going to have some issues that are different from yours. Yet, there are key principles and strategies that apply to almost every estate plan. There also are common Estate Planning mistakes you should avoid. Since this is the time of year […]
Few people actually have estate plans in place. Even lawyers and financial professionals who know better don’t get around to planning their estates. Many people who do have “estate plans” really just get simple wills written so they don’t have to wrestle with many of the real issues of their estates. Others have plans drafted […]
The early part of the year is a good time for a quick financial checkup and to evaluate the progress we’re making toward financial security for ourselves and loved ones. You probably are working on your tax return anyway, so it takes only a bit more time to answer the simple question, “How am I […]
You need an estate plan even if you don’t expect to owe taxes. Even if you expect to owe taxes, tax planning still should not be the focus of your planning. It is more important to decide who should receive the wealth, how much each should receive, when the wealth should be transferred, and how […]
Many things changed in the last two years. Those changes should lead to revised estate plans and new approaches to Estate Planning. The biggest change of course is the loss of $7 trillion to $8 trillion in stock market wealth. There also is uncertainty about the strength of the economy and the outlook for future […]
The post-mortem activities involving baseball great Ted Williams spotlight an issue that rarely is discussed. Who has the final say on the funeral and burial arrangements? Most of you will recall that after Ted Williams passed away, his son apparently had the body flown to a firm in Arizona, where the body was frozen in […]
Consider which specific powers to give, including making tax-free gifts for Estate Planning. Be sure you have documents that all your financial institutions will accept. Consider keeping all copies with your attorney until needed. Name at least one alternate attorney-in-fact. Review and update the documents every few years. […]
Small items often cause the biggest Estate Planning problems. Any one with some experience handling estates knows the worst disputes among heirs often are over what seem like trivial items. In a large estate, heirs might aggressively contest the disposition of a few pieces of furniture or personal mementos. Those small, personal items are most […]