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:
There’s a revolution taking place in trusts used for estate planning, and just in time. Trust use is soaring. Trusts are used frequently by middle class people, not only by the ultra-wealthy. The centuries-old law of trusts is changing in many states. Many of the alterations provide more protection and flexibility for estate owners. But […]
Managing the equity in appreciated homes and second homes has become a pleasant and unexpected challenge for many. Especially on the coasts, residential real estate values soared the last five years. Suddenly owners, especially long-time owners, have properties that are more valuable than they imagined. For many families, real estate wealth exceeds the value of […]
Estate Planning discussions often assume that a married couple is involved. We all know that frequently isn’t the case. People can be widowed, and the divorce rate among older Americans is rising. The Census Bureau reports a doubling since 1989 of the number of older couples living together without being married. A single person ? […]
Why do only 10% of family businesses reach the third generation? Perhaps one reason is that only 28% of family businesses have a succession plan. Yet, 40% to 60% of current owners say they want their businesses to stay in the family. Unfortunately, few have a plan to make that happen. Estate lawyers and financial […]
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The most unexpected events can cause a will to be challenged. A carefully planned estate becomes a mess as legal fees lay waste to the family wealth and acrimony drives members apart. It doesn’t have to happen. In most cases, a will contest and related lawsuits could have been avoided with a few preventive steps. […]
Soon after I updated the tax status of family limited partnerships for our July visit, the Tax Court ruled in another FLP case. The decision went against the taxpayers and again dimmed the enthusiasm of many tax advisors for FLPs. I’m not as pessimistic about the decision, but it does add some uncertainty and should […]
The law of unintended consequences has struck again. Because of it, some standard Estate Planning tools need to be reworked, and existing plans might need some revisions in the next few years. Congress decided Americans’ medical privacy needed more protection, so in 1996 it passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA. […]
Americans put their wills on the backburner in recent years, and it could cost their estates and heirs plenty. The data is clear. In 2004 only 42% of adults had even a basic will, versus 47% in 2000, according to legal publisher Martindale-Hubbell. Other studies have similar results. LegalZoom.com found that only 75% of adults […]