Estate planning requires preparing tasks and documents that will manage an individual's net worth in the event of their incapacitation or death. This type of planning includes the inheritance of assets to heirs and the settlement of estate taxes. Most estate plans are comprehensive and will require the help of an attorney experienced in estate law.
Primarily, estate planning involves the determination of how an individual’s assets will be preserved, managed, and distributed after death. It also considers the management of an individual’s properties and financial obligations if they become incapacitated.
Assets that are included in an individual’s estate are houses, cars, artwork, insurance, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and debt. Individuals have various reasons for planning an estate, such as preserving family wealth, providing for a surviving spouse and children, funding children's or grandchildren’s education, or leaving their legacy behind to a charitable cause.
The most basic step in estate planning involves writing a will. Other major estate planning tasks include the following:
• Minimizing taxes by setting up trust accounts in the names of beneficiaries
• Establishing a guardian for surviving dependents
• Naming an executor of the estate to oversee the terms of the will
• Creating or updating beneficiaries on plans such as life insurance, IRAs, and 401(k)s
• Setting up funeral arrangements
• Establishing annual gifting to qualified charitable and non-profit organizations to reduce the taxable estate
• Setting up a durable power of attorney (POA) to direct other assets and investments