Estate planning and tax laws change often and are difficult areas of the law to navigate. However, it really is important for anyone who has children, other potential beneficiaries, or any assets to at least consider how you would like your assets handled upon your death or incapacitation. Estate planning is not just for the wealthy. There are things you can do now to make this important process more efficient and less intimidating. Below is an estate planning to-do list that all of us should consider.
Seeking and obtaining professional advice, even if just for an overview, is a wise move and may help ensure you create and execute a plan that fits your situation and accomplishes your overall goals.
A will is an essential document that everyone should have even if you use it solely as a mechanism to recommend a guardian for your children.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
When deciding to whom you will leave your assets, you should also consider who would make health care-related decisions on your behalf if you were incapacitated.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is similar to, but broader than, a health care power of attorney, in that it appoints someone to handle your financial and all other non-health care related affairs.
Consider whether you could benefit from a trust in addition to a will. A trust may be used to clarify intent, to retain control of property during your lifetime, and to shield property and other assets from the costs and public nature of probate. A trust is particularly useful if you own any out-of-state assets.
Talk to your professional advisor about how you may use the current gift tax exclusion to reduce the overall value of, and tax burden on, your estate.