Estate Planning Guide

Estate planning often requires an attorney, a financial professional, a CPA, and you. The process can seem intrusive but is essential in achieving a desireable outcome. Each question has a specific purpose.

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Why it’s important

Once fully informed, your estate planning team can assist in several important ways:

  • Analyze assets to determine which should be retained and whether any special expertise may be required to value and dispose of your assets.
  • Identify which assets may be subject to probate or estate taxes and estimate the potential shrinkage due to these costs.
  • Estimate and plan for the liquidity needs of your estate, your surviving spouse, and other family members and beneficiaries (for instance, cash may be needed to help cover estate taxes, probate costs, or income replacement).
  • Guide you in selecting the best domicile—assuming you have a choice—to help reduce the net effect of taxes on your estate.

Assets and Liabilities

The basics include a list of your assets, their estimated net value, and form of ownership (individual, joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety, and other forms of co-ownership).

Family and Other Beneficiaries

Accurate information including the names, ages, relationships, and special needs of family members and beneficiaries. Additionally, a copy of property settlements, other financial agreements, and court decrees from prior marriages.

Existing Estate Plans

A copy of your current will, along with information on any contractual or legal restrictions on the disposition of your assets. In addition, documentation of survivorship provisions and beneficiary designations, business buy-sell agreements, and any other such assets.

Health Status

Information on your current health status and that of your beneficiaries helps the planning team more accurately recommend the right solutions. Don’t forget, the average life span of your ancestors can influence planning decisions.

Objectives and Purposes

Your objectives, purposes, and hopes for yourself and each beneficiary, along with an assessment of each beneficiary’s ability to manage money should be considered.

Estate plans evolve. Marriages, remarriages, births, deaths, new employee benefits, and legislative changes may necessitate adjustments. Also, the composition of your assets may change over time. You can keep your estate plan up-to-date by notifying your estate planning team of any relevant changes and by responding when they alert you to changes that may affect your estate.

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