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Why Is Estate Tax Planning So Important?

Aug 18, 2007
There are many reasons that make an estate plan very important. When you are unable to take decisions regarding your healthcare due to illness or accident there needs to be someone who can legally take such decisions on your behalf. Alternatively, if you require long-term care, which is not covered by medical insurance, you have to make alternative arrangements beforehand. There may be many responsibilities that would need to be performed in case of your incapacity or death. Your estate plan can cover all arrangements in case of the above-mentioned eventualities. To find out how it can do this, read on.

a) Planning for incapacity:- It is important to have arrangements that can ensure that you are taken care of in the event of your incapacity. To do this

. Make a living will:- This legal instrument documents your intentions about using life-sustaining measures when you are in a state of terminal illness. It expressly states your wish in this regard and acts as a bar for anyone to speak on your behalf.

. Prepare a health care power of attorney:- This document is to authorize a specific person to decide upon your healthcare measures when you fall in an unconscious or vegetative state or are unable to take your own health care decisions on account of any other reason(s). Laws in all states are not uniform on this issue but many state laws can permit you to include instructions about continuing or withholding life-sustaining care in this document.

. Buy Insurance for long-term care:- As things presently stand, health insurance does not cover the cost of long-term care. As such, in case when such care becomes necessary it is your spouse or other family members who have to foot the bill. The remedy is to take out a long-term insurance policy.

. Form a revocable living trust:- A revocable living trust will enable you to appoint a trustee who can succeed you in order to manage the trust when you cannot do this due to injury or illness/death and avoid any probate court guardianship issues.

. Create a durable power of attorney:- This a legal document that lets you appoint an 'attorney-in-fact' or 'agent' who can perform various responsibilities on your behalf. There are many responsibilities involving banking transactions, safety deposit boxes, insurance claim settlements, filing of tax returns, matters related to government benefits, purchase, sale and management of real estate etc. that have legal implications. The durable power of attorney will vest your agent with authority to carry out all the work on your behalf, legally.

b) Avoiding probate:- You can avoid you heirs going through harrowing probate proceedings, which are also very costly and can consume a big part of your estate in legal costs and fees. 'Transfer on death accounts' avoid probate proceedings letting you maintain sole ownership of assets as long as you are alive. Designate beneficiaries for annuities, individual retirement accounts, life insurance, and retirement plans. Note that these designations have precedence over other claims arising out of trusts, wills etc. Revocable living trusts also help avoiding probates as your trustee takes charge to manage/distribute your property in accordance to your wishes in the event of your death or incapacity. Titling your assets as 'joint ownership with rights of survivorship' can also avoid probate.

c) Forming charitable trusts or making gifts to charity:- Depending on your goals, you can make gifts of IRAs, retirement plans, annuities, make charity a beneficiary to life insurance benefits or establish a charitable trust(s). There are ways through which you can avoid estate tax, capital gains tax, get a reduction on income tax payable etc. along with receiving lifetime income from assets that are to be distributed to charity after your death.

d) Avoiding estate tax burden:- Form other trusts to eliminate/mitigate estate tax payable by your heirs:- You can form bypass trusts, A/B trusts or other types of trusts to ensure that your heirs are not burdened by avoidable estate taxes. Your estate tax consultant will be able to guide you how to go about this.
About the Author
Sacramento CPA firms offers Estate Tax Planning to individuals and businesses. We have former IRS auditors who know the system to make sure you only get the best advice. Discover a bevy or articles at : http://www.april15.com.
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