The Gift That Keeps on Giving – Part II

In our July 8th post last week, we commented that many people view estate planning like a trip to the doctor:  something to be avoided for as long as possible.  That’s a curious reaction given that most of us love to be “in control.”  Estate planning is the perfect opportunity to maximize control over the financial, personal and health dimensions of our lives. 
 
This week, as promised, we will address the death-related benefits of estate planning.  There are several, but we’ll focus on six that we believe are particularly important.
 
Elimination or Minimization of Death Taxes:  This objective has long been a primary motivation for estate planning and remains so today.  Just as careful income tax planning results in more money for lifetime enjoyment, minimization of death taxes means more money for loved ones.  Thoughtful estate planning can generate enormous tax savings for some families.
 
Ensuring that Beneficiaries Receive Their Intended Shares:  A critical planning objective is to ensure that beneficiaries receive their intended shares…that is…the shares that you intend for them to receive.  Asset ownership is much more than dollars and cents.  Our belongings are an expression of who we are as human beings, as family members.  We do care who ultimately receives our golf club collection or grandmother’s wedding ring.  A failure to plan virtually guarantees that some property will pass contrary to our wishes.
 
Avoiding Family Disputes:  This should always be a critical objective.  Many families exist peacefully during the lifetime of a wealthy or dominant family member only to have that harmony transform into open warfare upon his or her death.  Every family should be examined for this possibility.  Careful planning can help ensure long-term family harmony.
 
Support for Survivors in Time of Stress:  A loved one’s death, particularly when sudden or unexpected, is not the time to make important decisions concerning taxes, investments, business succession, and the disposition of personal assets.  Proper estate planning ensures that these decisions are made in advance.
 
Preserving the Size of Your Estate:  The size of an estate can be decreased in two ways:  1) by the expense associated with property transfer process and 2) by the federal estate tax and state-imposed death taxes.  Once again, careful planning minimizes the effects of these forces.
 
Peace of Mind:  This is the ultimate benefit:  knowing that you have done everything possible to ensure that you and your family will be provided for in the event of disability or death. 
 
Clearly, estate planning is more than a matter of dollars and cents!

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