As you consider developing an estate plan, whether your goal is to provide for your family, protect assets, prepare for end-of-life decisions or, perhaps, some combination of all these, there are a number of steps to consider.
Of course, it is always advisable to consult with legal and tax specialists to help guide you through your estate planning. You will want to be sure you are taking advantage of all the tax benefits you are entitled to and effectively accomplishing your priorities.
To get started, you should list the assets you want included in your plan, whether they are cash, property, investments, life insurance policies, real estate or other interests. Don’t forget intellectual property, such as patents or monetized social media accounts. Once you’ve established your list, you can begin determining the legal means you’ll need to employ.
You will also need to identify those individuals you want to provide for and what their individual financial needs may be when you are gone. For instance, you might have a loved one with special needs or young children who will need additional support.
Other decisions you will need to make include whether you want to bequeath charitable donations and to what charities. You’ll also want to understand whether you will need to provide for estate taxes, as the federal government and some states levy such taxes on certain levels of wealth.
Estate plans can contain a variety of legal documents like powers of attorney, advance directives, trusts and wills. Proving the validity of a will in court, identifying the deceased’s property and the payment of debts and taxes are all part of the legal process called probate.
Navigating the probate system can be both complex and costly, and a will doesn’t allow for specialized financial considerations to care for an individual. There are other reasons why your estate plan might require more than creating a will. You may want to plan for management of your assets before your death, in the advent of your incapacity. Also keep in mind that probate is public record; anyone can access your probate court file for exact information about your estate.
There are many potential parts to an estate plan. Together with an attorney experienced in estate law, your tax advisor can help create a plan that best manages and distributes your assets while limiting the impact of federal and state taxes. Contact us to schedule a review of your estate planning needs.