Estate Planning Strategies

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“Even though most of us don’t enjoy discussing end-of-life matters like wills and estates. Despite this mental obstacle, estate planning should be considered an integral part of your financial plan. By planning your estate, you can ensure that your property and wealth are passed down to your family or beneficiaries as efficiently as possible.”

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Estate Planning Strategies

Families are becoming increasingly complex, which makes strategic estate planning even more critical. The average American lives longer than ever, so planning for aged care has become more acute.

To make the best estate plan for your family, you should consider your family’s needs, situation, and goals. Even though general strategies can be an excellent springboard for a tailored plan. You should seek professional advice to ensure you’ve covered all the essential points and selected the best options for you and your family.

Here are practical estate planning strategies for protecting your family and assets, covering wills, taxation, superannuation, and more.

 

How Does Estate Planning Work?

Planning for your estate requires professional advisors who understand your objectives, concerns, and assets and how they are owned. The professionals involved are your lawyer, accountant, financial planner, life insurance advisor, banker, and broker.

A will is the core document most commonly associated with estate planning. It serves to transfer property at death, as well as to plan for taxes, etc.

 

Organize a team

Ensure that your estate plan caters to your specific needs by assembling an estate planning team that includes a financial advisor, a tax advisor, and an attorney.

By working together, you can maximize your beneficiaries’ inheritances and reduce the tax burden associated with estates. There is a vital role for each member in the process, and can provide valuable legal and financial advice.

As part of your Estate Planning Strategies, you and your team will ensure that your assets pass according to your wishes without confusion.

 

Plan your estate according to your wishes.

It would help to have a comprehensive estate plan detailing how you wish to distribute your assets and dependents upon death. Without one, a probate court judge may make those decisions for you.

Consider including the following estate planning documents in your end-of-life plan to reduce the likelihood of your assets going to probate:

 

Advanced healthcare directive:

Advance directives are available in two types: a living will and a healthcare power of attorney. An advance directive is considered a legal document offering guidance on medical treatments.

A living will, or medical care directive, outlines what medical treatment you want and don’t want at the end of your life. If you cannot make healthcare decisions yourself, you can designate a healthcare proxy (or power of attorney) to make these decisions for you.

 

Durable financial power of attorney:

If you cannot make financial decisions, a durable economic power of attorney (POA) allows someone else to do so on your behalf.

 

Testament:

The documents outline how you want to leave your possessions and dependents after death. Your will allows you to select your beneficiaries, designate guardians for your children, and choose an executor to fulfill your wishes.

 

Pro tip:

You should prepare an estate plan and a will to ensure your loved ones and assets are cared for following your death. A will is an essential part of your estate plan, but an estate plan provides a sense of direction for your loved ones and assets.

 

Assign guardianship to dependents.

If you have dependents at the time of your death, think about who will care for them. These may include minor children, loved ones with special needs, or even elderly parents you care for.

Name a guardian for your dependents in your estate plan to ensure they are safe. Otherwise, the court may appoint guardians on your behalf.

It would help if you talked to your child’s guardian beforehand to get their consent before naming a guardian. Furthermore, remember that they don’t have to manage your child’s inheritance. In the meantime, you can appoint someone else to handle your child’s estate until they are old enough to take it themselves. An example is a trustee.

Another thing to consider: If you choose a couple to be co-guardians, talk to your estate attorney about how to prepare. Finally, a backup guardian should intervene if the first choice can’t care for your dependents.

 

Considering trusts is another option.

A trust is a legal container in which money is kept and passed from generation to generation. When you create trust, you decide what will go into it, who will receive it, and how to manage it. Consider establishing an estate trust to prevent probate, where a judge decides the distribution of your assets. A properly structured trust may help ensure your plan proceeds, preventing your estate from entering probate.

 

Considering trusts is another option.

 

Hence, it’s essential to consult an estate planning and trust attorney to ensure the trust appears according to your wishes and best fits your needs.

Trusts come in many forms, including:

 

Revocable living trusts:

When you pass away, your revocable living trust becomes irrevocable. You can modify or terminate it anytime if you revise or end it before death.

 

Irrevocable trusts:

Irrevocable trusts lack the flexibility of revocable trusts. They protect against lawsuits, creditors, and the Internal Revenue Service.

 

Charitable trusts:

In a charitable trust, you can donate cash or assets to a charity without paying taxes. A beneficiary can then pass these assets on to heirs without taxing them.

 

Tax planning at the federal and state levels

In most cases, your beneficiaries must pay estate taxes in the nine months following your death and depend on the value of your assets, such as cash, real estate, stock, and other valuable items.

There may be a problem if most of your estate is not in cash. That could mean selling assets, such as stocks or houses, that you might have wanted to leave to your children.

If you are planning for estate taxes, you can take preventative measures such as placing assets in irrevocable trusts or giving gifts to family members. To determine which estate tax planning strategies are appropriate for your circumstances, speak with a tax professional who can work alongside your attorney and financial advisor.

 

The avoidance of probate

Legally, probate refers to the court’s process of verifying your will. Probate cases are a matter of public record, so that they can be slow, expensive, and highly public. Furthermore, if you have yet to outline your estate plan clearly, a probate judge may make decisions you disagree with.

Your attorney can provide more information and help you develop a plan to prevent your loved ones from undergoing public court proceedings.

 

Plan for long-term care

Consider options like long-term care insurance, which can help cover the cost of long-term care while protecting your assets, or get advice from a financial advisor. If your health changes, consider several plans and discuss your options.

 

Take into account income taxes attributable to decedents (IRD)

It is essential to know that the Federal Estate Tax is not the only tax you must pay attention to. A tax called Income in Respect of a Decedent, or IRD, applies to people who inherit certain types of money. If you die and your estate has income that hasn’t taxable, your beneficiaries or your estate will need to pay income taxes.

The following are examples of income that is taxable under the IRD:

  • Income from savings bonds
  • Payouts from individual retirement accounts
  • Commissions from sales
  • Your other sources of revenue if you lived

Consult with a professional to ensure you have a comprehensive estate plan that covers all possible tax scenarios.

 

Maintain a current list of beneficiaries.

When preparing an estate plan and will, you can name your beneficiaries. But beware of a significant loophole. Even if your estate plan says otherwise, any money in accounts you have designated beneficiaries will go to those individuals.

There are several types of accounts, including, but not limited to:

  • Plans for retirement (401ks, IRAs)
  • Insurance policies for life
  • Accounts at banks
  • Transfer-on-death and payable-on-death accounts
  • To ensure no conflicts, align your beneficiary designations with your estate plan.

 

Digital assets are not to be forgotten.

In Estate Planning Strategies, you might have thought about your physical belongings and money, but remember your digital assets. Your digital file storage accounts and social media accounts may contain photos and important documents. They are password-protected and challenging for others to access.

Service providers won’t disclose their passwords if a loved one passes away, and few laws help. Be sure to designate a “digital fiduciary” in your estate planning strategy to reduce the risk that your loved ones will lose access to essential family documents or memories.

You can work with an attorney to shut down your online presence. The person will have access to digital information, including login names and passwords.

 

Complex estate planning 

Complex estate planning strategies require applying sophisticated estate strategies to manage and transfer wealth while minimizing taxes, safeguarding assets, and ensuring the achievement of specific objectives. Techniques can differ according to individual needs, financial goals, and tax laws and regulations.

Remember, these strategies are complicated, and their success depends on specific conditions, tax laws, and objectives. Consulting with legal, financial, and tax professionals is recommended before evaluating sophisticated strategies for estate planning.

 

Estate planning strategies by beneficiary

Strategies for estate planning vary according to the beneficiaries. Consider an unlimited deduction for marital assets or spouse-based life-long access trust if you have a spouse. Children can benefit from tax-free gifts each year and trusts for education. Charitable trusts can address beneficiaries who are eligible for philanthropic benefits. 

Special needs trusts can help those with disabilities, whereas business partners might require buy-sell agreements and life insurance. Professionals who consult with clients ensure the goals are met and comply with the legal standards.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to estate planning, we know some questions can arise. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about Estate Planning Strategies.

 

What are the advantages of creating estate planning?

When do you want your property to be inherited? What proportions and conditions do you want them to receive it under? If you don’t plan and make these decisions, the state will decide for you (this is intestacy).

The assets you leave to charities you support will not go to them. And they will not consider any relationship with relatives you may have. Despite your estrangement from your brother, your brother’s son may have a close relationship with you despite not speaking to him in decades. Despite your separation from your brother, he will receive an inheritance, not your favorite nephew.

Generally, intestacy distributes property outright. However, there may be better options for your heirs since they might not be able to handle the inheritance, they may be going through a divorce or bankruptcy, or they might be young. When you plan now, you can choose who receives your estate and how they will receive it.

Finally, if you have minor children, you can choose who you want to raise after you die.

 

Probate – what is it?

An estate plan is a formal, court-supervised process that identifies the assets owned by a deceased person (a “decedent”), names the decedent’s creditors and beneficiaries, and distributes the assets accordingly.

It is necessary to file for probate regardless of whether or not you have a Last Will. A simple, uncontested probate can take 9-12 months, cost several thousands of dollars, and take up a formal court procedure.

 

Revocable trusts and Wills: what’s the difference?

If you have real estate in more than one state, a revocable trust has the advantage of not having to go through probate, an expensive, time-consuming, and public process. Revocable trusts are a substitute for Wills.

A trust owning all your assets eliminates probate in every state where you own real estate. This is particularly advantageous if you own real estate in multiple states.

The revocable trust avoids the need for conservatorships established by the court to plan for incapacity. Essentially, a conservatorship is a form of probate for a living person, but it has the same drawbacks as probate, which include being costly, public, and time-consuming.

Unlike conservatorships, a properly funded revocable trust can provide for the trust maker’s family and himself if he becomes incapacitated, thanks to the trust’s assets.

In contrast, a revocable trust requires you to give your assets to the trust during your lifetime, which requires you to spend more time and effort. In addition to transferable assets, there are assets that you must choose as “payable upon death” to the trust through a beneficiary designation. You must carefully title additional assets in your trust’s name as you acquire other assets.

 

The Bottom Line

A trust is a complex estate-planning strategy that requires the help of an estate-and-trust attorney or other financial professional to establish correctly and accurately.

It would help if you started planning now. And remember: Estate planning isn’t a one-and-done process. Your decisions today may differ from what you need five years from now. Your estate plan needs to be reexamined every few years, even if your life or finances stay the same.

Hedy Ghavidel

HEDY GHAVIDEL Managing Attorney  Roseville Office  1-866-471-6981  info@attorneysre.com Bio...

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