How to Create an Estate Plan

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How to Create an Estate Plan. If your net worth is more than $1 million (individual) or $2 million (couple), you need an estate plan - otherwise, your heirs may be sending a high percentage of your estate to the government in taxes after you die.

Things You'll Need

  • Legal Advice
  • Accountants
  • Financial Manager
  • Tax Services
  • Estate Planning Software

Visit the library or various Web sites to study some general summaries on estate planning and settlement.

Talk to trusted friends and colleagues regarding attorneys and accountants specializing in estate planning and transferring wealth to succeeding generations.

Determine if you are best served by a will, a living trust or both.

Minimize probate costs through gifting strategies, living trusts, and insurance or annuity contracts, as appropriate.

Explore the possibility of qualifying for survivorship (also known as "second to die") life insurance held outside of the estate to pay for estate taxes.

Outline your estate plan in writing, and review it regularly with trusted professionals as tax laws are adjusted or changed.

Tips & Warnings

  • An estate plan can maximize the transfer of assets to succeeding generations by reducing the impact of taxes at the time of your or your spouse's death.
  • Qualified legal and tax advisers are essential to a well-crafted estate plan.
  • A certified financial planner and/or an insurance agent experienced in estate planning and settlement can also be very helpful.
  • Responsible adult children can help reduce ongoing legal costs if one or more of them are able to serve as trustee of any trusts held outside the taxable estate.
  • Several software programs and interactive Web sites are available to help you organize your estate planning ideas.
  • Legal and tax advice can be expensive.
  • Despite what you may be told, fees for ongoing legal and tax advice are negotiable, so don't necessarily accept the first quote for such expenses.
  • Don't short expenses for trustees, as they'll be your assurance that your wishes are followed as per trust instructions.
  • Read all legal agreements carefully, and seek a second opinion if you have any doubts about sections in the documents.
  • Never sign anything you don't understand or with which you don't agree.
  • Adult children may not be the best "advisers" regarding your estate.
  • Don't forget to include special instructions and trusts for grandchildren, if you wish to make separate accommodations for them in your plan.

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