Estate planning is the process of creating a legacy by arranging for the transfer of property at death. Estate planning focuses on creating certainty for the legal transition of property through the orchestrated use of trusts, wills, beneficiary designations and ownership structures. Effective estate planning will typically maximize the value of the estate passed on at death by reducing taxes and other expenses. While there may be a temptation to focus only on the economics of estate planning, ultimately estate planning is about creating a plan that allows an individual to determine who will receive certain property, when they will receive it and how they will receive it. Your goals dictate how the plan is implemented.
- Estate planning is sometimes mistaken for estate tax planning. Anyone who owns an asset that will exist after their death will need some form of estate plan – either one they design or the state’s intestacy laws. Estate tax planning occurs when an estate is large enough to incur federal estate or state death taxes. Estate tax planning involves various strategies to reduce the amount tax owed so that a greater percentage of the estate reaches the desired heirs.
- The probate process provides supervision for the transfer of assets at a cost. While many clients don’t like the idea of paying probate fees and incurring the delays the oversight of a probate court can prevent mistakes and mismanagement from occurring that cost the estate valuable time and assets. The probate court typically ensures that the directions in a will are fulfilled.