Estate Planning 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 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, please start with our article:
Estate Planning is much more than tax planning, as I’ve said in past visits. One function of estate planning is to reduce the ‘leakage’ caused by costs and other expenses. There are steps you can take now to reduce the wasting of assets. Here’s my list of the key steps. Write it yourself. A lawyer […]
Some documents are so important that they, or copies, should be stored securely. I don’t recommend a safe deposit box, for reasons explained in my June 2002 visit, which is available in the web site Archive. Consider a fireproof container or keeping copies at both the home and the office. The Federal Emergency Management Agency […]
Estate Planning is getting more difficult for many of us. An estate plan these days needs flexibility. The estate tax law might change, the value of property in the estate fluctuates, and personal circumstances can change. Flexibility is fairly easy to put into a will with the “but it” clause I’ve discussed in past visits. […]
Low interest rates and depressed stock prices are making a classic Estate Planning strategy significantly more attractive. People who could benefit from the strategy should look into it before interest rates rise. This tool has the un-sexy name of grantor retained annuity trust, or GRAT. It has the sexy result of allowing you to pass […]
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 […]
A Roth IRA is one of the best investment and wealth building vehicles for youngsters. That’s right, for youngsters. Establishing a Roth IRA for your children or grandchildren creates a valuable, low-cost legacy for which the youngsters later will be very grateful. A few thousand dollars now could be worth hundreds of thousands of tax […]
Avoiding taxes is not the most important part of Estate Planning. In coming years, it will be even less important for many people. A more important part of estate planning often is avoiding family fights and disappointment while passing wealth the way you want. Here are the key issues to resolve to avoid problems. Share […]
Trusts can solve many problems, making them a vital estate planning tool. When an IRA is involved, however, trusts must be used with great care. The IRS changed the rules to make things easier, but all the rules still aren’t clear and traps remain. Trusts are a good way to leave wealth to those who […]