Who will benefit from your life's work? Will it be the people you wish? How can you be sure they will receive your property when you wish?
The purpose of your Estate Plan is to distribute the property you have accumulated over a lifetime exactly as you wish. Your goals may include ensuring that you have a sound retirement plan, providing for your surviving family, or supporting the continued work of charitable causes. Your concerns may include determining who needs or deserves your gifts most, whether your gifts will be used prudently, and how to reduce losses from taxes. You can work with advisors to design an estate plan based upon your goals.
Anyone who doesn't create an estate plan has a default plan imposed by the probate and tax laws. However, this "Plan" does not necessarily ensure that your assets are given to the people or organizations whom you would have chosen, or ensure that your estate is preserved by minimizing administrative, settlement and tax costs. It will result in a substantially reduced estate passing to your loved ones.
What Plans have you already made?
Do you have a Will? If so, does it provide for an executor or a guardian for your children?
If you own your own business, have you planned for its disposition at your death?
If you have life insurance, is the amount of coverage adequate?
The plans you have made may need to be revised, based on your own personal or financial circumstances and any recent changes in the tax laws. It is important to be sure all the separate pieces of your estate plan work together, providing the right balance of cash, property and continued income. This may be the time to reexamine your existing plan and make sure it matches your objectives.
What methods can you use to preserve and maximize your assets?
The most difficult aspect of estate planning is restructuring your assets so they pass to your beneficiaries with minimum delay and losses due to taxation and administrative costs.
Administrative costs can rise, for instance, if an asset like a house or stock holding is sold in order to raise cash quickly to pay taxes or creditors.
There is often the additional issue of controlling how the money you leave can be spent by your beneficiaries, especially if they are minors or do not have the expertise to handle the assets you leave them.
The team concept is crucial to estate planning because it demands an intimate understanding of many areas, from tax law to trust law, from investments to life insurance, and from business planning to family relations. Whether your estate is large or small, you will need a team of advisors to assist you.
**Oldham Resource Group does not offer legal advise. Estate planning services through an attorney.