Simply stated, estate planning is a method for determining how to distribute your property during your life and at your death. It is the process of developing and implementing a master plan that facilitates the distribution of your property after your death and according to your goals and objectives.
At your death, you leave behind the people that you love and all your worldly goods. Without advance planning, you have no say about who gets what, and more of your property may go to others, like the federal government, instead of your loved ones. If you care about (1) how and to whom your property is distributed, and (2) ensuring that your property is preserved for your loved ones, you need to know more about estate planning.
Who Needs Estate Planning?
Estate planning may be important to individuals with a wide range of financial situations, not just for the wealthy. In fact, it may be more important if you have a smaller estate because the final expenses will have a much greater impact on your estate. Wasting even a single asset may cause your loved ones to suffer from a lack of financial resources.
Your master plan can consist of strategies that are simple and inexpensive to implement (e.g., a will or life insurance). If your estate is larger, the estate planning process can be more complex and expensive.
Putting an Estate Strategy in Place
Implementing most strategies will probably require you to hire professional help of some kind, an attorney, an accountant, a trust officer, or an insurance agent, for example. If your estate is large or complex, you should consult with an estate planning expert such as a tax attorney or financial planner for advice before the implementation stage.
In deciding on your course of action, you should always consider whether the benefit of the strategy outweighs the cost of its implementation.
What are Estate Planning Strategies?
An estate planning strategy is any method that facilitates the distribution of your assets and the settlement of your estate according to your wishes.
There are several estate planning strategies available to you.
Intestate succession is a strategy by default and is a means of transferring your property to your heirs if you have failed to make other plans such as a will or trust. State law controls how and to whom your property is distributed, who administers your estate, and who takes care of your minor children. Without directions, your opinions and feelings are not considered. Indeed, one of your primary goals in planning your estate may be to avoid intestate succession.
Last Will and Testament
A will is a legal document that lets you state how you want your property distributed after you die, who shall administer your estate, and who will care for your minor children. This is probably the most important tool available to you. Anyone with property or minor children should have a will.
A will substitute, for example, Totten Trust and payable on death bank accounts, allows you to designate a beneficiary of certain property that will automatically pass to that beneficiary after you die and avoids passing through probate.
A trust is a separate legal entity that holds your assets that are then used for the benefit of one or more people (e.g., you, your spouse, or your children). There are different types of trusts, each serving a different purpose, and include marital trusts and charitable trusts. You will need an attorney to create a trust. Trust services may be something that would fit into your overall strategy.
Joint ownership is holding property in concert with one or more persons or entities. There are different types of joint ownership, such as tenancy in common and community property, each with different legal definitions, requirements, and consequences.
Life insurance is a contract under which proceeds are paid to a designated beneficiary at your death. Life insurance plays a part in most estate plans.
A gift is a transfer of property, not a bona fide sale, which you make during your life to family, friends, or charity. Making gifts can be personally gratifying as well as an effective estate planning tool.
Tax Exclusions, Deductions, and Credits
There are several important estate planning tools you can use that are offered by the federal government. These include the annual gift tax exclusion, the applicable exclusion amount, the unlimited marital deduction, split gifts, and the charitable deduction.
As you’re thinking of how you’d like to approach your estate planning, please contact a Farm Bureau advisor today to discuss the different options. Your family and loved ones will be so grateful for your planning and preparation.
From materials prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.