The process of preparing a plan of administration and disposition in order to minimize uncertainty and reduce costs or delays of passing one’s assets on to the heirs.
Of course, estate planning often gets ignored because it involves considering your own morality and what will occur after you pass away (two topics that many of us prefer to avoid). However, sometimes asking these difficult questions now is much easier than being forced to answer them later.
Creating and reviewing your estate plan will ensure that your remaining assets will pass along based on your intended desire. It is important to correctly identify who the beneficiaries will be, how they will transfer and who will retain control of the assets. Proper planning discusses and covers options such as:
- Beneficiary designations are the overriding determinant on where all your assets go, regardless of whether separate documents state assets should go elsewhere
- Vesting of assets secures the beneficiary’s right to enjoyment of the assets
- Transfer on death designation permits the ownership transfer of securities immediately at your death the designated beneficiary and therefore avoids probate
- Revocable Living Trusts allow for transfer of assets while the person is still alive while still giving the owner control
- Consolidation of “stray” IRAs helps minimize paperwork and administrative costs
- Annual Gifts of $14,000 or less per year are not taxed therefore reaching their beneficiary while the owner is still living and ultimately reducing the size of your taxable estate
- Portability between spouses allows spouses to use their spouses’ unused estate exclusion that exempts their estate from being taxed in addition to their own exclusion (can add up to $10.24 million if fully unused)
Proper estate planning also includes discussion of the selection of the executor/successor trustee. This person will be responsible for settling the terms of the estate and therefore bear great responsibility.
Estate Planning is needed regardless of the size of your wealth because the amount of the wealth is only one of the many factors that contribute to estate planning. Planning helps in reducing the potential for family conflict, keeps your affairs private and between desired included parties, timely inheritance, and overall contentment knowing your hard-earned assets will be passed on as you wish.