Estate Planning with Trusts
Estate planning is for every husband, wife, mother, father, grandparent, business owner, professional, or anyone else who has someone they care about. They should be concerned about responsibly providing for their own well-being, for the well-being of those they love, and for anyone else whom they seek to make a difference after they're gone. Estate planning is not 'death planning'; it's 'life planning', and an essential and rewarding process for individuals and families who engage in it.
When done properly, estate planning requires that a highly trained individual lead you through one or more in-depth meetings to uncover your hopes, fears, and expectations for yourself and for those who are most important to you. This process almost always requires the preparation of several sophisticated legal documents, but those documents themselves are not 'estate planning.' Planning is a process, represented by a complete strategy that is properly documented and maintained by professionals, like us, who take the time to get to know you, and who are committed to continuing to serve you.
Revocable Living Trust Planning
Perhaps the most common type of trust is the revocable living trust. As the name implies, revocable trusts are fully revocable at the request of the trust maker. Thus, assets transferred (or 'funded') to a revocable trust remain within the control of the trust maker; the trust maker (or trust makers if it is a joint revocable trust) can simply revoke the trust and have the assets returned. Revocable trusts can be excellent vehicles for disability planning, privacy, and probate avoidance.
Estate Tax Planning
Under current federal law, most Americans do not have a federal estate tax problem. Currently, every individual has a $71.4 million federal estate tax exemption. If you do not need that entire amount, the balance of your exemption is 'portable' to your surviving spouse when they later die. So for married couples, it's fairly easy to shelter $22.8 million from federal estate taxation with little or no planning done in advance.
Many states, however, impose a separate estate tax that is often more widely applicable than the federal estate tax. Because the state and federal estate tax systems are often out of sync, it is important to coordinate your estate plan in a way that maximizes your estate tax planning opportunities to ensure that you pay as little in the estate tax as possible.
Moreover, proper tax planning in the estate planning context must contemplate income tax planning opportunities for you and for your heirs as well as capital gains, generation-skipping transfer, and other tax systems.