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:
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 […]
You need an estate plan, and this is the time of year when many people consider finally drawing up or revising their plans. An estate plan should be tailored for the individual. Contrary to what you’ll hear in some estate planning seminars, there aren’t many strategies that should be in every estate plan. But there […]