Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging, during a person's life, for the management and disposal of that person's estate during the person's life and at and after death, while minimizing gift, estate, generation skipping transfer, and income tax.
Estate planning is the act of preparing for the transfer of a person's wealth and assets after his or her death. Assets, life insurance, pensions, real estate, cars, personal belongings, and debts are all part of one's estate. Estate plans must be written, signed, and notarized by the person who owns the estate.
The significant loss of one's estate to the payment of state and/or federal estate taxes or state inheritance taxes is a great motivator for many people to put an estate plan together.
Many clients seek the advice of an estate planning attorney after personally experiencing, or seeing a close friend or business associate experience, a significant waste of time and money due to a loved one's failure to make an estate plan.
There are generally two main reasons why people put together an estate plan in order to protect their beneficiaries: (a) Protecting minor beneficiaries, and/or (b) Protecting adult beneficiaries from bad decisions, outside influences, creditor problems and divorcing spouses.
Avoiding probate is by far the most ../common reason why people seek out the advice of an estate planning attorney. While many have never even dealt with probate, they still know one thing - they want to avoid it at all costs.
You do — whether your estate is large or small. Either way, you should designate someone to manage your assets and make health care and personal care decisions for you if you ever become unable to do so for yourself. For many, such “life planning” is the most important aspect of an estate plan.
All of your assets. This could include assets held in your name alone or jointly with others, assets such as bank accounts, real estate, stocks and bonds, and furniture, cars and jewelry. Your assets may also include life insurance proceeds, retirement accounts and payments that are due to you (such as a tax refund, outstanding loan or inheritance).
Will: A legal document that ensures that your assets are passed to your designated beneficiaries, in accordance with your wishes. In the drafting process, you'll name an executor, who is the person or institution that oversees the distribution of your assets. If you have minor children, you need to name a guardian for them.
Power of attorney: Allows you to appoint someone to act as your agent in a variety of circumstances, like withdrawing money from a bank, responding to a tax inquiry or making a trade.
Health care proxy: Allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions on your behalf if you lose the ability to do so.
Trusts (if applicable): Depending on your family needs and tax situations, you may have either revocable (changeable) or irrevocable (not-changeable) trusts. One factor is the size of your estate: For 2016, the first $5.45 million of an estate is exempt from federal estate taxes. If an estate is above the threshold (or twice that for married couples), a revocable trust may be suitable.
You should also complete, and share, a list of multiple accounts that heirs might need to access.
Names individuals (or charitable organizations) who will receive your assets after your death, either by outright gift or in a trust.
Nominates an executor who will be appointed and supervised by the probate court to manage your estate; pay your debts, expenses and taxes; and distribute your estate according to the instructions in your will.
May include nominations of guardians for your minor children.