Planning a will is very important if you want to have control regarding the distribution of your assets after your death. You can also use a will to provide other instructions, like who should serve as a guardian if you pass away while you have minor children under your care. It is important to start planning as early as possible so you do not end up without a will in case something unexpected happens to you. Learn more here about when to begin planning your will.
Married couples receive some estate tax protections and benefits. Spouses can transfer their assets to each other without incurring estate taxes. This is true regardless of how much the first spouse transfers to the second upon death. A husband could transfer millions of dollars in property and assets to his wife, or vice versa, without estate taxes being assessed.
Married couples also get the benefit of being able to transfer their federal excludable limits. The federal government allows for each person to transfer $5.45 million in excludable assets (as of 2016) before estate taxes are assessed. If the first spouse to pass away doesn’t use his or her $5.45 million because the entire amount of money is transferred to the spouse, then the spouse who inherited now has his or her own $5.45 million exemption and the deceased’s spouses.
The last surviving spouse could thus transfer $10.9 million in assets. This could be a substantial benefit in tax planning, because a couple could coordinate together in order to maximize the total value of assets that they can pass on to children or other loved ones without estate taxes being incurred. Find out more about estate tax rules for married couples.
A revocable trust can provide some protection for your assets, but will not necessarily provide 100 percent of the protections that you might expect a trust would offer. Revocable trusts are beneficial in case you become incapacitated, because you can name a person who will serve as backup trustee and begin managing trust assets immediately. Revocable trusts are also beneficial in allowing for asset transfers outside the probate process, which means an inheritance can be received by new owners in a more timely manner. However, the assets in a revocable trust are a part of your taxable estate and are assets for purposes of means-tested benefits, like Medicaid which you may need to pay for nursing home costs. This mean asset protection is limited. Find out more here about whether a revocable trust will protect assets.
When you create a power of attorney, the selection of an agent is of vital importance because the agent will be the person who is in charge of overseeing your assets and managing your affairs. You will need to select an adult who you can trust. You should ensure that the person you choose has the knowledge and ability to manage assets and a willingness to make your decisions for you when you cannot do so. Remember that your agent will have to act during a grief-filled time, as your agent takes over when you become incapacitated and unable to act on your own. Find out more here about selecting an agent when you create a power of attorney.
Estate litigation can arise in many circumstances, including when there are disagreements regarding the validity of a last will and testament. Litigation could also become necessary in circumstances where beneficiaries believe that an executor may not be adequately fulfilling the important role that executors are required to fulfill. Find out more here about top causes of disputes in estate litigation.
You should find an estate planning attorney who has appropriate experience in the specific field of estate planning you are interested in. You should also make sure your attorney is a part of organizations like the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, which requires proof of expertise in the field of estate planning as well as ongoing continuing legal education. Having an attorney who is part of professional organizations means you can rest assured that your lawyer is up-to-date on the important legal issues that matter in estate planning. Find out more here about credentials to look for in an estate planning attorney.