We can’t predict the future, but we can certainly plan for it. Estate planning documents allow you to have control over both your assets and those who can make decisions about your health when you no longer have the ability to make those decisions for yourself. Good planning can avoid probate and minimize or eliminate estate tax owed to the government. Ensure your spouse and children are safe in knowing that you have taken the steps needed to provide them with security in your absence.
Estate planning can be complex. ILIT? GRAT? QDOT? We can help you navigate these difficult issues and design a flexible plan for your family’s needs in addition to aiding both domestic and international families in planning their futures while minimizing estate tax liability and protecting their assets.
We are here to provide you guidance on a variety of issues to protect both your assets and your family’s legacy. Some documents you should consider are:
Wills – A Last Will and Testament is a document which designates how you wish your property to be distributed at death. Preference for a guardian of any minor children can also be stated in a Will. Should you pass “intestate” (without a validly executed Will) your assets will be distributed to your heirs according to the Florida laws governing intestate distribution and may cause your assets to be distributed in a way you didn’t intend. Additionally, intestate distribution can cause fighting among family members. A will is a simple document you can use to avoid these undesirable situations.
Living Will – A Living Will is a document which allows you to specify the type of life-sustaining procedures to prolong your life in a terminal condition in the event you are incapacitated. A Living Will is a critical document because it is a tool to guide your family members who may be facing challenging questions regarding your health. Planning allows your family to have guidance in making these tough decisions on your behalf.
Power of Attorney – A Power of Attorney is a legal document that empowers a person of your choosing the legal right to act on your behalf for either specified matters or in all manners on your behalf. There are various designations you can make using a Power of Attorney to allow others to continue your business and personal interests when you are not present or if you become incapacitated.
Trusts – Trusts are among the most useful and most complex estate planning tools. A trust can express your specific direction regarding how your assets are to be handled, invested, distributed, or utilized during the life of the trust. In comparison to Wills, Trusts avoid the probate process and are private documents which are not filed with the probate court. There are many types of trusts and various planning techniques that can be employed to help both domestic and international clients.
Some Estate Planning Considerations:
Should you pass away without an estate plan, or will, your estate will be subject to the jurisdiction of a probate court. Probating an estate is both a time-consuming, frustrating, and expensive process. Additionally, details of your estate will also be entered into public record and therefore subject to public scrutiny. The probate court has the discretion to freeze your assets until it determines the proper distribution and will deprive your family of access to money and other assets they may need to pay for basic costs of living while the probate process is underway. Utilizing a proper estate plan can allow your estate to avoid the probate process entirely, allowing for a much quicker distribution of your assets and making the process faster and less expensive to your family.
Providing for Minor Children
Every estate plan should incorporate language to provide for minor children in the event that you pass away prior to them entering adulthood. Some factors you should consider in your estate plan would be choosing a guardian with the resources and skills necessary to properly care for your children, whether you’d prefer your beneficiaries to receive assets directly or have them placed in a trust and distributed for some ascertainable need (health, education, etc.) or age, the possibility you and your spouse pass away at the same time or within a short period of time, and language directing the guardian to your trusted counsel such as an attorney or CPA who can assist your guardian with issues they may lack the knowledge of how to properly handle. As you can see the issues can be quite complicated when planning for minor children and you should consult an experienced attorney to make sure you have all the bases covered with proper planning.
From an estate tax standpoint charitable giving can be used to reduce capital gains thereby reducing estate taxes. However, leaving money or other assets to a charitable organization is a great way to assist the people, causes, and institutions that have come to find a place in your heart during your lifetime.
Minimizing Estate Tax
Estate taxes are determined by the size of one’s estate on their date of death. Proper and prudent planning can reduce or even eliminate estate taxes. The key to estate planning to reduce the complexity and costs involved is to begin at an early age when all the various strategies are available. As an estate grows some of the most effective strategies, while still useful, will take longer to facilitate and carry the added risk of higher costs and complexity. Start early. Additionally, it is imperative to note that the laws governing estate taxes are continually changing and thus your plan should be reviewed periodically to make sure it complies with current law.
We can assist clients with personal tax planning, IRS issues, and tax optimized business structuring. Whether you owe the IRS or are curious if you qualify for any additional deduction or credits this year, we can provide assistance with your tax questions.
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