Estate Planning

What is Estate Planning?

If you’d like to ensure your assets are distributed as you’d like them to be when you die, estate planning is the answer. Successful estate planning transfers your assets to your beneficiaries quickly and with minimal tax consequences.Estate planning can also assure that family members know how you’d like your financial and medical affairs to be handled if you become incapable of making your own decisions.

The process of estate planning includes inventorying your assets; talking over important decisions with family members; and making a will and/or establishing a trust. This brochure provides only a general overview of estate planning. You should consult an attorney, and perhaps a CPA or tax advisor, for additional guidance tailored to your specific situation.

Is Estate Planning is Only for Wealthy People?

You may think estate planning is only for the very wealthy. But whether or not you have sizeable financial assets, it’s likely you have possessions that have significant value to you and to those you care about – the china your great, great grandparents brought with them when they immigrated, or the Bible that has been handed down in your family for generations.

Certainly, if your assets are worth $2,000,000 or more, estate planning can benefit your heirs by minimizing the taxable portion of your estate. Remember, all of your assets are included in your estate, and adding up the value of your assets can be an eye-opening experience. When you include your home, investments, retirement savings, and life insurance policies, you may be surprised at the value of your estate. A good first step in estate planning is to inventory everything you own (i.e., your assets) and assign a value to each asset.
The following list can help you get started, but you’ll probably need to add some categories and delete others.

◊ Residence
◊ Other real estate
◊ Savings, e.g., savings accounts, CDs, money markets
◊ Investments, e.g., stocks, bonds, mutual funds
◊ Pension and/or other retirement accounts, e.g.,401(k), IRA
◊ Life Insurance policies and annuities
◊ Ownership interest in a business
◊ Motor vehicles, e.g., cars, boats, planes
◊ Jewelry
◊ Collectibles, e.g., art, antiques
◊ Other personal property

Depending upon your specific situation, you may need professional advice (e.g., a real estate or antiques appraiser) to determine realistic values. Once you’ve estimated the value of your assets, you’re ready to do some planning.