Knowledge Is Power When It Comes To Your Estate Plan

If you are like many Americans who do not have an estate plan in place, your hesitance to move forward with a plan may stem from a lack of understanding of the probate process and from feelings of intimidation related to the gravity of the decisions to be made.  A recent article on financial news website MarketWatch can help to boost your understanding of the probate process and make you feel more confident as you start thinking about your estate plan.  In this piece, estate planning experts provide a comprehensive summary of information to guide individuals through the three common estate planning questions below:

1. How do I avoid probate?

2. Do I need a lawyer to write a will?

3. How do I pick an executor for my will?

While the idea of constructing an estate plan can be overwhelming, developing your understanding of the estate planning and probate processes will make it seem less formidable.

 

More Money, More Problems

Of all people, it would seem that celebrities and the ultra-wealthy would have access to every resource they might need to establish an elaborate and air-tight estate plan.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Most recently, Alan Thicke of "Growing Pains" fame passed away with a seemingly solid plan to split his assets between his children and his third wife, Tanya Callau Thicke.  However, an ugly battle has erupted between the parties stemming from disagreements related to Thicke's prenuptial agreement with Callau and the trust Thicke had established during his lifetime.  For more on this story, check out this piece from CNN.com.

6 Easy Tips For Writing A Will

The process of creating a will can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be.  Kiplinger's Personal Finance has provided a simple six-step approach to creating a good will:

1) Sort out all of your assets including real estate, financial assets, personal items, and other possessions such as automobiles to help you get started.

2) If you have minor children, then select a guardian who will take care of your children if you pass away.

3) Designate beneficiaries who will receive your assets once you pass away.  This could include family members, friends, or charities.

4) Select an executor who will be in charge of distributing your assets according to your wishes.

5) Meet with an estate planning attorney to make sure your wishes are properly reflected in your documents.

6) Update your will from time to time as you go through life changes.

While thinking about death is probably not at the top of your to-do list, breaking down the pieces of a will into these six simple steps can make the process of creating a will much less daunting.

 

Do You Have An Estate?

Thinking about creating an estate plan?  The Vanguard Group, Inc., recently released a helpful piece listing five facts that everyone should know about estate planning:

1. If you own anything, you have an estate.

2. Your estate plan comes into play if you are incapacitated or if you pass away.

3. If you fail to plan, your state's laws will make decisions for you.

4. Update your estate plan regularly, as your plan is not final until you become incapacitated or pass away.

5. Although DIY estate planning can save money now, generic forms may be inappropriate for your situation, costing your loved ones in the long run.

 

4 New Year's Resolutions For Married Couples

Whether you are planning a wedding this year, or you have been married for 50 years, this helpful article from A Practical Wedding outlines four major planning discussions you should have with your spouse.  Writing your wills, purchasing life insurance, preparing living wills, and documenting various aspects of life can go a long way toward making an unexpected situation much simpler for your spouse or other loved ones to manage.

Thank you for a wonderful 2016, and best wishes for a safe and happy 2017!

How Will Donald Trump's Election Impact Estate Taxes?

After this month's election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States, many Americans anticipate changes to the tax code.  On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump vowed to eliminate the estate or "death" tax.  So, what does this mean for you?

For 2016, the unified credit (sometimes referred to as the estate and gift tax exemption) is $5.45 million per person, or $10.9 million for a married couple (this will increase to $5.49 million per person, or $10.98 million for a married couple in 2017).  This means that only assets held at the time of death above this threshold are subject to estate taxes as the law currently stands.

If enacted by Congress, Donald Trump's proposal would eliminate the current estate tax, but would impose a capital gains tax on assets valued at over $10 million at the time of death.  A recent article in Forbes provides a synopsis of Donald Trump's proposal.  What will actually happen remains to be seen, as an overhaul to the entire tax code requiring compromises will likely be necessary before any changes will be made by Congress.

 

Celebrating 3 Years in Business!

A HUGE thank you to all of my family, friends, and clients as I celebrate three years in business this week!  I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to do what I love, and I am truly grateful for all of the support, advice, and referrals you have provided over the past three years.  During these three years, I have had the pleasure of helping nearly 200 individuals with their estate planning needs!  I look forward to meeting and working with many more wonderful people in the years to come.  THANK YOU!

Time To Do Your Homework!

Summer is winding down, kids are heading back to school, and sports, clubs, and other activities are starting up again.  As the new school year begins, now is the perfect time to think about your estate plan.  Respected personal finance publication Kiplinger recently shared five important reasons to establish an estate plan:

1. Maintain control over what happens to your assets after you pass away.

2. Minimize the negative impact your death could have on a business you own.

3. Prevent information about your assets from becoming public after you die.

4. Prepare in advance for an unforeseen disability.

5. Take inventory of your finances to plan for the future both during your lifetime and after your death.

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