Estate Planning

Is Your Estate Plan Bulletproof? Techniques to Help Avoid Fighting Later

An inherent problem with wills and other estate planning documents such as trusts is that, when the time comes to put them into action, you won’t be around to explain or interpret them. Fortunately, there are strategies you can use during your lifetime to minimize the risk of a fight over your estate after your death. Treat Heirs Fairly If someone succeeds in getting your will or trust thrown out in court, your estate will be distributed as if you had no will or trust — that is, according to the laws of intestate succession. The more closely your will…

Estate Planning for Personal Property: Why You Should Sweat the Small Stuff

When planning their estates, most people focus on major assets, such as business interests, real estate, investments and retirement plans. But it’s also important to “sweat the small stuff” — tangible personal property. Examples include automobiles, jewelry, clothing, antiques, furniture, artwork, photographs, music collections, personal papers, collectibles (such as stamps, coins or baseball cards) and mementos. Ironically, these personal items — which often have modest monetary value but significant sentimental value — may be more difficult to deal with, and more likely to result in disputes, than big-ticket items. Distributing $4 million in stock or other liquid assets among your…

Four Reasons Millennials Need an Estate Strategy

You’re young, have little in savings and likely have no one yet relying on you financially. So why do you need to think about estate management?¹ Here are four great reasons: Estate Strategies: They Not Just for Old People You need a will. You may ask why a will is important if there’s not much to pass on. A will is not just about transferring assets. It can be used to accomplish other tasks, such as who should manage your social media accounts once you’re gone, or inherit items you’ve accumulated, like collectibles or your car. Don’t burden others with…

Yours, Mine and Ours: Estate Strategies for Second Marriages

If you are one of the many Americans who are in a second marriage, you may need to revisit your estate strategy.¹ Unlike a typical first marriage, second marriages often require special consideration that should address children from a prior marriage and the disposition of assets accumulated prior to the second marriage. Second Marriages Here are some ideas you may want to think about when updating your estate strategy: You may want to ensure that your children from your first marriage are set up to receive assets from your estate, even as you provide your second spouse with adequate resources…

Critical Estate Documents

Financial Documents   Question Joint Ownership Durable Power of Attorney Living Trust What does it do? Enables you to own property jointly with another person Authorizes someone to handle legal and financial decisions if you become incapacitated Holds your belongings until your death Can it authorize someone to handle your financial affairs if you are unable to communicate? Generally, no Generally, no Can it specify how you want your belongings transferred after your death? But only those belongings owned jointly Generally, no Is it private? When does it go into effect? As soon as joint ownership is recorded Either immediately…

Estate Management Checklist

Effective Estate Planning requires attention to a number of important details. The following checklist will get you started developing an estate management plan. Consult with your professional adviser after reviewing the following questions. 1. Do you have a will? A will enables you to specify who you want to inherit your property and other assets. A will also enables you to name a guardian for your minor children. 2. Do you have healthcare documents in place? Healthcare documents spell out your wishes for health care if you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself. They also authorize a person…

Succeeding At Business Succession

Inc magazine reported that sixty-six percent of small-business owners have no formal succession plan.1 While the number may shock you, it probably doesn’t surprise you since so many small business owners are consumed by the myriad responsibilities of running their businesses. Nevertheless, owners ignore succession planning at their peril, and possibly at the peril of their heirs. There a number of reasons for business owners to consider a business succession plan soon. Let’s take a look at two of them. Estate Tax Bill The first reason is taxes. Upon the owner’s death, estate taxes may be due that a proactive…

Put It in a Letter

American actor Lee Marvin once said: “As soon as people see my face on a movie screen, they knew two things. First, I’m not going to get the girl, and second, I’ll get a cheap funeral before the picture is over.” 1 Tip: Contact Information A letter of instructions also might include contact information for individuals who could be helpful in the distribution of your assets, such as your lawyer or financial professional. Most people don’t spend too much time thinking about their own funerals, and yet many of us have a vision about our memorial service or the handling…

A Brief History of Estate Taxes

Federal estate taxes have been a source of funding for the federal government almost since the U.S. was founded. For Richer or Poorer Regardless of your net worth, it’s critical to understand your choices when developing an estate strategy. In 1797, Congress instituted a system of federal stamps that were required on all wills offered for probate when property (land, homes) was transferred from one generation to the next. The revenue from these stamps was used to build the navy for an undeclared war with France, which had begun in 1794. When the crisis ended in 1802, the tax was…

Prenuptial Agreements as an Estate Planning Tool

Prenuptial agreements and domestic law vary from one state to another but nearly every state has laws that prevent one spouse from entirely disinheriting the other. However, with a prenuptial agreement, one spouse can waive his or her right to the other spouse’s estate. What if you are already re-married and didn’t sign a prenuptial agreement? You may be able to sign a post-nuptial agreement to accomplish the same goals. Consult with your attorney Let’s say you are getting married and have children from a previous marriage. Your spouse-to-be also has children and is financially secure. You may want to…