What Will Your Financial Legacy Be?

Countless Americans die each year without a deliberate estate plan and when that happens, their family members wake up to the reality that they have very little control over the distribution of their loved one’s assets. Many people believe that they are too young, not wealthy enough, too busy, or a combination of these to put together a plan for their estate. However, what will happen to your hard-earned assets if you fail to put a plan in place? The answer is that the state in which you live will largely make these decisions for you. Estate Planning

The Elements of an Estate Plan: Estate planning covers a wide range of areas and can include plans for not only after you are gone, but for the possibility of mental and/or physical incapacitation. Even if you are not considered wealthy, you should still be the one to decide these things rather than a court.

Some of the questions you want to ponder as you put together your estate plan include:

  • Who do you want to pass on your assets to when you die? This question may not have a simple answer; you may have several family members that you want to include, and some may be minors. If that is the case, you will want to think about who should be in charge of your minor children’s inheritance and at what age you want them to receive it.
  • If you have minor children, who do you want to appoint as guardian(s)? Make sure this is someone you believe will lovingly take on the responsibility of caring for your kids and instill the same values you are trying to teach them.
  • Should you become incapacitated, who do you want to appoint as your power of attorney? In the absence of your instruction, this person will be appointed by a court. Name someone you know you can trust to honestly and responsibly manage your affairs.
  • Which medical procedures do you want conducted (and which do you want to forego) in order to keep you alive? With Americans living longer, the issue often arises regarding what treatments and procedures someone should have to keep them alive. It is best for you to make a plan ahead of time so your family members and the doctors are all on the same page.


Estate Tax Planning: One of the key issues involved with estate planning is minimizing your tax liability. In 2013, the federal inheritance tax rate went up from 35% to 40%. However, for the 2014 tax year, the first $5,340,000 of assets in your estate is exempt from the inheritance tax. State inheritance taxes and exemptions will vary. As always, it is best to consult with a professional accounting firm to determine if more advanced estate-planning tools such as a living trust should be considered for your situation.

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