protect your assets
You can take control of your assets and make plans for your financial resources. Learn more about valuable ways to protect your assets.
Estate planning is a process of determining how you want your assets and other resources transferred based on your goals and family structure. Estate planning covers the transfer of property at death as well as a variety of other personal matters and may or may not involve tax planning. It can involve the services of a variety of professionals, including a lawyer, accountant, financial planner, life insurance advisor, banker and broker.
Consider these ways to protect your assets:
Prepare for medical emergencies
Be sure you have adequate insurance and a plan for managing your assets if you or a family member becomes seriously ill or disabled.
Increase your savings so you can live comfortably in your eighties, nineties, or even beyond.
Manage your portfolio
Diversification and asset allocation can help reduce the impacts of high inflation and market declines on your investment accounts.
Have alternative plans
Consider best- and worst-case economic scenarios and determine how your financial plans may change if some of your assets lose value.
Keep personal assets separate
If you or your family owns a business, consider ways to structure your business to protect your personal assets.
Wills: distributing assets to beneficiaries
Your will is a core part of your estate plan. Wills are simply plans for distributing assets to family members and other beneficiaries. If you die without a will, your state law will determine how your assets will be distributed.
Work with an attorney to create (and revise) your will to meet your goals, including naming the executor of your estate and, if you have dependent children, designating a guardian for them.
Annuities, life insurance, IRAs and retirement plans are just some of the assets that let you designate beneficiaries. The assets are automatically distributed to that beneficiary upon your death, which means they generally avoid the probate process.
Note: Beneficiary designations take precedence over any other instructions you provide in a will or trust. Keep that in mind when you’re developing your estate plan.
Consider these strategies to distribute your wealth
You have a variety of gifting strategies and wealth transfer tools that can help you distribute your assets to your family and other beneficiaries. These techniques may help you meet your estate planning goals, such as avoiding probate and reducing estate taxes.
Gifting to individuals
In its simplest form, gifting represents an opportunity to transfer assets to children or other beneficiaries during your lifetime and reduce your estate. Sophisticated gifting techniques can also help you:
- Provide income for yourself or your heirs
- Leverage your annual exclusion gifts
- Pay for a child’s education
You may gift up to a certain dollar amount per person per tax year. This amount is called the annual exclusion is determined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Any gift over that amount requires you to file a gift tax return.
Medical and education expenses
If you pay someone’s medical or education expenses directly to the provider, the gift may not be included in your annual exclusion amount.
Gifting to 529 college savings plans
If you’re helping your child or grandchild save for college using a 529 college savings plan, you may be able to gift up to the annual exclusion per year tax free or you can make up to five years’ worth of annual exclusion gifts in one year to benefit any one person.
Before investing, you should consider whether your or your beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in that state’s 529 college savings plan.
Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses carefully before investing in a 529 savings plan. The official statement, which contains this and other information, can be obtained by calling your financial advisor. Read it carefully before you invest.
USING TRUSTS FOR WEALTH TRANSFER
Learn how to use trusts to transfer wealth
Many types of trusts can help you accomplish your estate planning goals. Two common types of trusts are designed to help you transfer your wealth efficiently while avoiding probate and reducing estate taxes:
An irrevocable life insurance trust lets you keep the death benefit of your life insurance policy outside of your estate (and out of probate), which means your life insurance proceeds will not increase your estate tax liability.
You may be able to design your life insurance trust so that the proceeds are available to be applied toward your estate tax liability, leaving more of your actual wealth for your heirs.
You can give beneficiaries access to gifted funds according to the standards you set, until the beneficiary reaches an age that you select; these trusts can even continue for multiple generations.
Although revocable living trusts are still part of your taxable estate, they do help you efficiently transfer wealth to your heirs and help them avoid the probate process.
10 ESTATE PLAN CONSIDERATIONS
- Develop a will
- Create a trust
- Create a health care directive
- Create a financial power of attorney
- Review and update beneficiary forms
- Secure and maintain life insurance
- Understand estate taxes
- Consider funeral preplanning
- Share your end-of-life wishes
- Safely and securely store your documents (from list above plus all financial documents)
Be sure someone you trust knows where all these important documents are stored.
If you have a business, be sure to develop a succession plan. Identifying someone to take over and discussing what you would want them to do is a good first step.