Orange County Office:
17011 Beach Boulevard, Suite 540
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Main Number 714-848-8200
Estate planning is a process used to insure that your assets go to whom you want, when you want, in what proportion you want, and with as little tax or liability as possible during life or at death.
Having an estate plan is one of the most important ways to protect and pass on the assets you’ve worked your whole life to accumulate. Estate plans are usually developed using the joint services of attorneys, accountants, financial planners, life insurance advisers, bankers, and brokers. Estate planning is not only for the very wealthy. If you have assets you’d like to pass on to your heirs, then estate planning may be for you.
It’s important to have a basic estate plan in place regardless of your net worth. Although it may seem like a morbid chore, estate planning offers several benefits:
- You get to name the people to whom you wish to give your assets – and your wishes will be legally binding.
- You can arrange it so that taxes siphon as little as possible from your estate.
- You have the satisfaction of knowing that your financial affairs are in order, so you won’t bequeath a costly administrative nightmare to your loved ones.
- You have control from the grave.
The estate plan can include several elements:
- Revocable Living Trust
- Pour Over Will
- Power of Attorney
- Power of Attorney for Health Care Directive and Living Will
- Guardianship Assignment
It’s never too early to start. Your first step: Take stock of all your assets. These include your investments, retirement accounts, insurance policies, real estate, business interests and valuable items – in financial or emotional terms – such as jewelry, cars, baseball card collections or your great-grandmother’s good china.
Next, decide what you want to achieve with those assets and who you want to inherit them. This is also the time to think about people you would trust to handle your business affairs and medical care in the event that you become incapacitated.
After you decide what kinds of bequests you wish to make, discuss your plans with your heirs. The sooner and clearer you outline your intentions to your family and friends, the less chance there will be for disagreements after you’re gone.
If you intend to leave all of your assets to your spouse, estate taxes aren’t an issue: You can leave an unlimited amount of money to your spouse tax-free. Otherwise, your estate will owe taxes only if its value – including real estate, life insurance proceeds, retirement accounts and investments – exceeds a certain threshold, known as the estate tax exemption. If your estate is large enough to trigger the estate tax, only the amount that exceeds the exemption will be taxed. Call us for a complimentary consultation to find out if your estate will trigger an estate tax.