Do You Need Estate Planning?
The answer is yes, if any of your objectives are to:
- Maximize the estate left to your heirs
- Minimize the tax burden
- Manage your assets while you are alive
- Name who will make health care decisions for you if you are unable
- Determine who will receive your assets after you die
Advantages of Estate Planning Include:
- Avoiding Probate
- Reducing estate taxes
- Maintaining control
- Avoiding guardianship
- Providing for the care of minor children
- Eliminating delays in the distribution of your property
Common Estate Planning Documents Include:
A basic or simple Will generally gives (transfers) all of your property to your surviving spouse, children or other heirs. You can also name a guardian for any minor children.
This type of Will is generally used when you have a Living Trust. This Will transfers (pours) to the trust any assets not in the Trust during your lifetime.
Currently, a Living Trust is a popular planning technique that avoids the expense of probate. When properly structured, the surviving spouse has full control of the principal and income with this trust. This type of trust also can play an important role in the management of your assets in the event that beneficiaries are not yet ready to inherit the assets outright, or because they still lack experience in financial and investment matters.
Credit Shelter Trust
Commonly referred to as an “A-B Trust”. You and your spouse can decide, before your deaths, the ultimate distribution and beneficiaries of certain assets in your estate after the surviving spouse dies.
The surviving spouse must be given the right to income from trust assets for his or her lifetime. If properly drafted, assets so directed in the trust will not be included in the estate of the last spouse to die. This ability to defer taxes increases your assets to generate income to the surviving spouse.
This trust is very useful in many situations common today, for example, couples in their second marriages with children from a prior marriage.
Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust
It is commonly believed that life insurance proceeds are not taxed in your estate; if you are the owner of the policy, this is not true. Generally, an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust is created to remove assets from the taxable estate, to reduce the tax liability and maximize the estate transferred to heirs.
Designation of Agent (formerly Durable Power of Attorney)
A Designation of Agent, formerly known as a Durable Power of Attorney, is an important document for your estate plan. The Designation of Agent is a written document in which you name another person to act and sign documents on your behalf. Having an Agent named designated to act on your behalf will survive any disability you may have. Further, though the use of a Designation of Agent, you can designate whom you wish to be appointed your guardian in the event one is needed.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
This document allows someone, of your choice, to make health care decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated.
By signing a Living Will you express your intention to terminate life support systems if there is terminal illness.
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