Estate Planning

There are several key reasons that it is vital to estate planning: (1) to be sure that all of your wishes are followed after death; (2) to plan for state inheritance or estate taxes, if you live (or own property) in a state which levies such a tax; and (3) to plan in advance how to pay for any estate settlement costs. Federal estate tax law may have changed, but estate planning still matters.

A primary objective is to insure that your assets go to those you want to receive them. This can be done in several methods to include: a Will, Revocable Trust, Irrevocable Trust, Joint Tenancy and beneficiary designations. If proper prior planning is not done, estate and inheritance taxes, legal fees, and other estate settlement expenses can significantly reduce the legacy passing to your intended heirs.

Your survivors – a spouse, minor children, or a disabled child of any age – must also be considered in the estate plan.

Although an estate plan can be as simple as a set of hand-written instructions, there are a number of situations where legal guidance is considered vital:

  • To create a will or trust: An experienced attorney, familiar with local law, can prepare the legal documents required to meet the needs of your individual situation.
  • Estate taxes: If your estate is large enough to be subject to estate tax, your attorney can suggest ways to lighten the tax burden.
  • Squabbling heirs: Planning may be needed to minimize potential conflicts between your heirs or beneficiaries. Such disputes can occur when siblings don’t get along or there are children from more than one marriage.
  • Property elsewhere: If you own property in more than one state or country, there may be a need for an ancillary probate. Living trust are often used to transfer these assets and avoid additional probate.

In addition to your attorney, your estate planning “team” will likely include experts from other disciplines such as income tax, life insurance, trust administration, charitable giving, and investment management. The professional guidance provided by such advisors is a key part of creating and implementing a successful estate plan.