When talk turns to taxes, most people think of income taxes. Yet, for many people, estate taxes may be the largest single tax expense they’ll ever incur. With estate tax rates currently running as high as 55 %, your estate could be worth half of what you think. To put it another way, without proper planning, you could lose more than half of what you've spent a lifetime building.
Estate planning is more important than just minimizing estate taxes. It is the process by which you identify (1) to whom, (2) at what time and (3) under what controlled conditions you wish to pass on your estate. And a good estate plan will allow you to accomplish those three personal goals (1) with the maximum privacy, (2) with the least possible legal expense and interference, and (3) with the minimum state and federal estate taxes.
Wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents can be exceedingly complex and confusing - as well as most of the lawyers that go along with them. At Cruice Financial Planning, we believe that it makes a great deal of financial sense to learn about and to understand which of the many alternative estate planning strategies make the most sense for your personal financial needs and objectives – before investing the time and expense with an estate planning attorney.
Estate planning is not a one-time process. You must constantly review your current plan to ensure it fits your present situation. Even if you've planned your estate well, consider updating your estate plan after any of the events below:
Family Changes: Marriage, divorce, children and grandchildren can all lead to the need for estate plan modifications
Change in Financial Circumstances: What may have been an appropriate estate plan when your income and net worth were much lower may no longer be appropriate today.
Geographic Move: Different states have different estate planning ramifications. Anytime you move from one state to another, your estate plan should be reviewed.
Change in Tax Law: Anytime there is a change in the estate tax law, changes in your estate plan may be required. What might have been a great structure under old tax law may no longer be appropriate.
Special Circumstances: Sometimes a child has special needs due to physical or mental limitations. Sometimes a surviving spouse’s ability to earn a living changes to a disability. Such situations create special needs that often require special planning.