WealthcareEstate Planning
Important Steps for Estate Planning 
  A good estate plan can help you leave a legacy for you and your family to be proud of. With careful planning and regular updating, you can make sure your life's work will pass to the members of your family and to the charitable beneficiaries you choose, when you want, the way you want, with the least delay and at the least possible cost. The following steps can help you tailor a comprehensive estate plan that reflects your particular financial situation and the future needs of your family: 
Talk with your family. 
  A surprise in your will can create havoc for the personal representative (executor) of your estate and cause conflict/dissension among family members. The best way to plan for your family's future is to talk with them about their goals and determine what resources they will need to meet their goals. 
Prepare a will and nominate a personal representative. 
  If you do not have a will, meet with a competent estate planning attorney to prepare one. Without a will your estate will be distributed according to the laws of your state without regard for your wishes. You should nominate a personal representative who understands your wishes and will ensure they are carried out according to the terms of your will. Most people nominate their spouse, an adult child or a close friend as their personal representative.
Transfer assets to your family while you are alive. 
  A lifetime gifting program is an excellent way to remove assets from your estate. The current federal estate and gift tax law allows a person to give an unlimited number of "annual exclusion gifts" of up to $10,000 each year per recipient ($20,000 per recipient for married couples making joint gifts). In addition to these annual exclusion gifts, the law allows a person a unified tax credit against transfer taxes which, when properly utilized, can protect up to an aggregate of $600,000 of gifts or bequests  from federal estate taxes. Note: The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 increases this $600,000 "Unified Credit Equivalent" (UCE) amount from $625,000 for decedents dying in 1998, up to $1,000,000 for decdents dying in 2006 and later years. Remember, however, you should consider "gifting" no more than you can comfortably afford without adversely impacting your desired level of retirement income or your lifestyle. Your advisors should be able to project your cash flow and support needs for you so as to show you how much of your estate you can comfortably give away without jeopardizing your lifestyle.
If you own a business, consider planning for ownership succession. 
  Estate taxes paid by a business after the death of its owner often cause the business to fail. By consulting a professional when preparing for the future of your business, you can avoid certain tax consequences that might adversely affect the financial security of both your family and your employees.
Establish trusts and life-insurance policies for your heirs. 
  A trust is a legal arrangement that transfers ownership of assets to a trustee, who manages them for your beneficiaries. There are many different kinds of trusts designed to reduce estate settlement costs, estate taxes, preserve family privacy and meet your specific family's estate planning needs. And remember, the right kind of life insurance if properly handled in your estate may be the best "investment" you can make when you wish to pass wealth to your heirs.
Meet with a qualified professionals. 
  Developing an estate plan is not an easy task. Speak to a competent estate-planning attorney who is qualified to address the state and federal tax issues as well as the many complex legal issues involved in planning your estate so as to protect your wealth.
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