Estate planning is not as much about how much you have (financially), but also how many dreams you have for your children, spouse and loved ones.
Ten Tips for Estate Planning
Estate planning does not necessarily need to be a complicated process that takes significant time and energy. To make the process go as smoothly as possible it would be helpful to do a bit of advance planning. Don’t worry. We’ll do that together starting at your initial appointment.
Here are a few quick tips.
1. Identify your goals and objectives. The design of your estate plan should reflect the goals and objectives most important to you.
2. Consider the needs of your spouse and children. It is important to ascertain whether there is enough to go around. Will your spouse have sufficient assets to maintain your current standard of living? Will your children have funds to attend college? Do you have a child with special needs?
3. Prepare a list of all of your assets and the approximate values of those assets. Estate planning requires analysis of what assets are owned, by whom and their value. This list will help you determine whether there are sufficient assets to meet your goals and to pay estate and inheritance tax, if any.
4. Choose fiduciaries that are capable and willing to serve. Your children or other family members and friends may not be the best choice to serve as your Personal Representative, Guardian or as Trustee. Do each of your appointees have sufficient skills and experience to deal with the issues created by your death? Do you want to make these decisions or would rather have court decide for you?
5. Consider sharing your estate plan with your family. Before you begin planning, you may find it helpful to learn what your family expects. Do those expectations fit into your goals and objectives? Is there is conflict between and among family members?
6. Review your established plan. If you already have an estate plan, when was the last time you reviewed your plan? It is a good idea to review your estate planning documents every three to five years.
7. Seek professional counsel. Any changes that you wish to make to your will (“codicil”) or trust (“amendment”) should be done with the advice of legal counsel. You should not make changes by writing on your original documents.
8. Your estate means everything you own. Many people don’t realize that their “estate” for estate taxes includes everything you own on the day you die. This includes life insurance policies, retirement plans, jewelry, art, bank accounts, cars, power of appointment etc. Your estate may be subject to estate tax and you don’t even know it.
9. Non-US Citizens are treated differently. There are some estate tax advantages that are only available to a U.S. citizen spouse. The most significant one is the tax liability on transfers to non-US citizen spouses. Transfers between spouses who are US citizens are not taxable because of the marital deduction. There is no marital deduction available to transfers to a non US citizen spouse.
10. Will your estate have liquidity to pay expenses and taxes? If not, then develop a plan of how those expenses will be paid. Failure to plan for such payment may mean a significantly lower inheritance to spouse and children.
 This memorandum contains a summary of information obtained from laws, and legal publications and should not be viewed or relied upon as legal advice. Michelle-Shari Kruss, Attorney at Law, urges readers of this memorandum to consult legal counsel regarding specific legal issues and factual circumstances.