Estate Planning

You want to make sure the assets you worked so hard to accumulate during your lifetime go to your loved ones, or the charities you care about.

If you live in MD or GA Estate planning can be a complex process, but you can make it easier with the support of capable, experienced professionals. Through the estate planning aspect of our retirement planning services, we are able to illustrate a customized estate planning solution that is based on the data that we collect in the financial plan questionnaire.

Implementing Estate Planning Recommendations

We will recommend an attorney or law firm that specializes in estate planning to assist with drafting the following documents:

  • Wills
  • Revocable/Irrevocable Living Trust
  • Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT)
  • Credit Shelter Trust (CST)
  • Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust

Estate Planning

The following estate planning documents should be considered:

In the event of death, clients will have to consider the choices that must be made concerning their final affairs? How can you ensure that these decisions will be consistent with your wishes? Did you know, that if a person dies intestate, i.e. without executing a will, their affairs will be settled based on a will that is drafted by the government? Death is a topic that most individuals are uncomfortable talking about. But, with a little planning, you can maintain control and ensure that your estate will be settled consistent with your wishes.

  • A will tells how you want your estate distributed upon your death. A trust can offer greater flexibility but is more complex.
  • A letter of instruction can make the settling of your estate much easier for your heirs. It is not legally binding, but can provide all the information necessary regarding accounts, arrangements, lawyer, etc.
  • A durable power of attorney authorizes a person to conduct your legal or financial affairs in the event you become incapacitated.
  • A living will states your wishes regarding medical actions to keep you alive.
  • A durable power of attorney for health care, sometimes referred to as a health care surrogacy, designates an individual to make certain the instructions of your living will are carried out.

When beginning to plan for leaving their property to heirs, people are confronted and frightened by the high estate tax rates and rush to utilize sophisticated estate planning techniques to avoid them. Yet, there are some simple moves that can frustrate these elaborate plans and are easily avoided. Here are some of the common mistakes to watch out for:

Many individuals have attempted to install a modern estate plan and use a living trust. Yet, too many fail to transfer the necessary property to the trust, which is like having a conductor without an orchestra.

Titling assets under joint-tenancy-with-right-of-survivorship does avoid probate, yet does not avoid estate taxes. Further, improper titling can frustrate an estate plan because property titled JTWROS goes to the surviving joint tenant regardless of what a will or trust says.

Leaving all your property to your spouse does avoid estate taxes at the first death due to the unlimited marital deduction. However, such a plan wastes the first-to-die spouse’s applicable exclusion amount (previously called the “unified credit”). It may also often be better to pay some estate taxes at the first death at lower marginal rates.

This is another example of improper titling and wasting the applicable exclusion amount. Having all property titled in one spouse’s name looks silly when the non-titled spouse dies first and does not pass on any property under his/her credit.

Do we really need to say more? Probate property of the decedent will pass under the state intestacy laws at possible increased costs. Personal wishes, whether written or oral, will most likely not be followed in the absence of a will.

Most policies are owned by the insured, payable to the insured’s estate or survivors and therefore are included in the owner’s taxable estate. Policy owners should consider giving policies directly to the beneficiaries or transferring them to an irrevocable trust to avoid a large estate tax bite.

Creating and contributing to a UGMA/UTMA account of which you are the custodian will cause the account to be includible in your estate and possibly subject to painful estate taxes.

A scattered estate plan by a secretive decedent may cause some assets to be left uncollected, undistributed and even lost.

The tasks facing an executor are often formidable and demanding in all but simple estates. Spouses and close family relatives are under enough burdens. A professional or trust company is often a better choice.

People don’t like to think about dying and therefore want to set up an estate plan and be done with it. However, many economic, health and family changes require revising your estate plan. It’s best to work with an experienced financial planner who can help make the necessary modifications.

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