Planning Your Estate*
A primary purpose of estate planning is to distribute your assets according to your wishes after your death. Successful estate planning transfers your assets to your beneficiaries quickly and with minimal tax consequences. The process of estate planning includes inventorying your assets and making a will or establishing a trust, with an emphasis on minimizing taxes.
Do I Need to Worry?
You may think estate planning is only for the wealthy. Actually, if you have assets worth $675,000 to $1,000,000 or more, estate planning may benefit your heirs. That's because generally taxable estates worth more than $675,000* may be subject to federal taxes, which can be as high as 55% of the taxable estate.
Adding up your own assets can be an eye-opening experience. By the time you account for your home, investments, retirement savings and life insurance policies, you may find your estate in the taxable category.
Even if your estate is not likely to be subject to federal estate taxes, estate planning may be necessary to be sure your intentions for disposition of your assets are carried out. *
The first step in estate planning is to inventory everything you have and assign a value to each asset.
Here's a list to get you started. You may need to delete some categories or add others.
Other real estate
Savings (bank accounts, CDs, money markets)
Investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds)
401(k), IRA, pension and other retirement accounts
Life insurance policies and annuities
Ownership interest in a business
Motor vehicles (cars, boats, planes)
Other personal property
Once you know the value of your estate, you're ready to do some planning. Keep in mind that estate planning is not a one-time job. There are a number of changes that may call for a review of your plan. Take a fresh look at your estate plan if:
The value of your assets changes significantly.
You marry, divorce or remarry.
You have a child.
You move to a different state.
The executor of your will or the administrator of your trust dies or becomes incapacitated, or your relationship with that person changes significantly.
One of your heirs dies or has a permanent change in health.
The laws affecting your estate change.
There are a number of estate planning methods that can be used to minimize federal taxes on your estate.
*Estate planning is very complex and is subject to changing laws.
*Be sure to seek professional advice from an attorney.
The money you spend now to plan your estate may mean more money for your beneficiaries in the long run.