Estate Planning

Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging for the disposal of an estate. Estate planning typically attempts to eliminate uncertainties over the administration of a probate and maximize the value of the estate by reducing taxes and other expenses. Guardians are often designated for minor children and beneficiaries in incapacity.

Devices

Estate planning involves the will, trusts, beneficiary designations, powers of appointment, property ownership (joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, tenancy in common, tenancy by the entirety), gift, and powers of attorney, specifically the durable financial power of attorney and the durable medical power of attorney. After widespread litigation and media coverage surrounding the Terri Schiavo case, many estate planning attorneys[weasel words] now advise clients to also create a living will. Specific final arrangements, such as whether to be buried or cremated, are also often part of the documents. More sophisticated estate plans may even cover deferring or decreasing estate taxes or winding up a business.

Remainder

The tax code allows people to set up charitable remainder trusts and set up qualified personal residence trusts to own their personal residence yet leave it to their children without estate tax.

Tax

Because the United States tax code does not tax life insurance proceeds as income, a life insurance trust could be used to pay estate taxes. However, if the decedent holds any incidents of ownership like the ability to remove or change beneficiary, the proceeds will remain in his estate. For this reason, the trust vehicle is used to own the life insurance policy and it must be irrevocable to avoid inclusion in the estate.

Mediation

Mediation serves as an alternative to a full-scale litigation to settle disputes. At a mediation, family members and beneficiaries discuss plans on transfer of assets. Because of the potential conflicts associated with blended families, step siblings, and multiple marriages, creating an estate plan through mediation allows people to confront the issues head-on and design a plan that will minimize the chance of future family conflict and meet their financial goals.

Estate planner

Estate planning is usually a legal and tax specialty for an attorney or an accountant. Many estate planners earn credentials such as Trust and Estate Practitioner, Chartered Financial Analyst, Certified Financial Planner and Chartered Trust and Estate Planner.

Designation of an IRA beneficiary

Without a beneficiary statement, the default provision in the custodian-agreement will apply, which may be the estate of the owner resulting in higher taxes and extra fees.

Identity

A specific, identifiable individual must be designated as beneficiary.

Contingent beneficiary

If the primary beneficiary predeceases the IRA owner, the contingent beneficiary becomes the designated beneficiary. If a contingent beneficiary is not named, the default provision in the custodian-agreement applies.

Death

At the IRA owner’s death, the primary beneficiary may select his or her own beneficiaries. There is no obligation to retain the contingent beneficiary designated by the IRA owner.

Multiple accounts

An IRA owner can split an IRA into several IRA’s each with different beneficiaries, assets and value.

 

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