Determine who you want to inherit your assets and how you want your property distributed. Once your objectives are clear, you can incorporate strategies designed to help meet your individual goals.
List all of your holdings and place a fair market value on the assets. Subtract the sum of your debts from the value of your assets to determine your gross estate. This is the amount you could leave to your heirs.
Your will is the cornerstone of your estate plan; it determines who will receive your assets and how those assets will be distributed. If you die without a will, the laws of the state may govern how your property is distributed. A trust may sometimes be used as a substitute or complement to a will.
Lifetime gifts to your family can reduce your taxable estate and provide personal satisfaction. An individual can make gifts, based on the annual exclusion amount, to any number of persons each year without reporting the gift or paying taxes.
Contributions to a qualified charity may result in a current income tax deduction, may be made gift tax free, and may also reduce estate taxes.
Advanced Planning Techniques
A variety of trusts can be utilized to accomplish more sophisticated financial planning strategies. Among the most popular are the Charitable Remainder Trust and the Wealth Replacement Trust (often funded with permanent life insurance) which, when used together, can provide both income and estate tax benefits and allow you to make a gift to a favorite charity without depleting your estate.
Selecting and implementing a trust arrangement, which effectively accomplishes your objectives, can be an important step in the design of your estate plan. Consult with your attorney or tax advisor to be sure that the trust is properly drawn and funded, and produces the intended result.