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101 Of Estate Planning

Aug 17, 2007
Estate planning is a way in which people can ensure that their wishes about their health and assets are carried out in the way that they desire, and that those they care about are provided for in the event of death. Most people are so busy in their daily affairs that they fail to pay attention and act on this important aspect of their lives. A detailed estate plan answers many questions bearing legal implications that may arise after death, such as those related to financial affairs and personal properties. Who are to be the beneficiaries? How are the assets to be distributed? How are minor children to be cared for? What would be the tax implications? How is the funeral to be arranged? And so on.

An estate plan, as is evident from the name, relates to your estate. Your estate comprises of all the property owned by you at the time of your demise. Thus your estate includes real estate, cash, stocks, bonds, securities, bank accounts, life insurance policies, retirement benefits, vehicles, furniture, gold and jewelry, clothing and all other personal property.

By making an estate plan you can identify the people whom you want to transfer your assets to on your death. It facilitates this transfer with the minimum of obstacles and ensures that tax implications are minimized in order for them to get the maximum share. There are many tools like living trusts and payable on death bank accounts that you can use in your estate planning to minimize the efforts, time, and costs of the probate proceedings. The plan will ensure that your wishes about the medical care you want are carried out if you are not in a position to express your wishes at the relevant time. It would allow you to leave instructions about your funeral and related expenses.

You start the estate planning process with your lawyer/attorney, by explaining to him/her about how you want you assets to be handled during your lifetime and after your death, discussing various available options as to what would be most suitable for you. You may be asked to fill up a form listing your assets and family structure etc. Make sure that you have a good attorney who is not merely document oriented, but is a value-based individual who takes into consideration what you want. He/She must offer frank counsel and suggest ways and means through which your wishes can be effectively carried out through your estate plan.

It would prove helpful if you have the following information handy with you before starting your estate planning.

. Names/addresses/phone numbers/birth dates of: a) your spouse, b) your children, c) other relatives (who you want to include in your estate plan), d) people who you want to appoint as guardians, trustees, or executors (if required).

. The amounts and sources of all your debts, including mortgages, loans, leases, and business debts.

. Complete details (including amount, sources and account numbers) of retirement benefits, IRAs, Keogh accounts, pensions, government benefits, profit sharing plans, annuities, and any other financial assets

. Complete details of all insurance policies with the relevant dates and account balances, owner, issuer, beneficiaries, and amounts borrowed against them (if any).

. Documents likely to affect your estate plan like pre-nuptial agreements, divorce decrees, marriage certificates, wills, trust deeds, property deeds, tax returns, etc.

A well-crafted estate plan is the outcome of according balanced considerations to the facts discussed above and duly communicating them to your estate-planning attorney.
About the Author
California Tax Help is easier than ever with former IRS agent Bill Murray and Murray and Young a Sacramento CPA Firm. To view our services and new articles for 2007 Estate Tax Planning please visit our award winning site http://www.april15.com.
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