Estate Planning Essentials: Understanding the Process

Inheritance can be a complex matter without a sound estate plan. Therefore, creating an effective estate plan is essential while you have enough time on hand. However, it is pertinent to mention that estate planning requires subtle knowledge of the state’s inheritance laws and other financial skills.

Therefore, hiring a team of professionals, like accountants in Savannah, GA, is imperative to help you lay down a perfect inheritance strategy with an immaculate estate plan. A thoughtfully laid down estate plan will also safeguard the interests of the beneficiaries. 

Exploring the essentials of estate planning

Estate planning is the preparation of tasks to manage an individual’s money and assets in case of their demise or incapacitation. The ultimate goal of estate planning is to ensure the inheritance of the assets by the designated beneficiaries. However, inheritance also applies to minor children, pets, and debts.

Following are the essential steps of estate planning.

  • Create an inventory of your assets: To create an effective estate plan, you must know how much stuff you own. Therefore, the best way to know how much you own is to list your assets,  like home, land, cars, boats, collectibles, antiques, and other priced possessions. Apart from this, also include your savings accounts, deposits, bonds, stocks, life insurance, retirement funds, and other savings and investments.
  • Understand your family’s needs: Once you know how much you own, the next thing would be to figure out how to protect the assets for your family in case you’re gone. You can write a will to safely pass the assets to beneficiaries, buy a good life insurance policy, or name a guardian for your children.
  • Establishing directives: An estate plan is incomplete without legal directives. Revocable living trust, living will, limited power of attorney, and financial power of attorney are some ways to ensure that your wishes are followed and your assets are managed according to your preferences. 
  • Reviewing the beneficiaries: Although your will and other documents can spell out your wishes, you may also want to update the beneficiaries of your retirement and insurance account. Apart from that, ensure that you update the beneficiaries you named on policies purchased long ago. It may also be beneficial to name contingent beneficiaries as it will ensure the passing of the asset to the intended person in case of the primary beneficiary’s death.
  • Keep the tax laws in mind: Federal estate tax can range between 18% and 40%, which is applicable on assets over $13.61 million. Moreover, some states may also levy taxes on estates valued below the federal exemption limit. Furthermore, some states also have inheritance tax.
  • Consider seeking professional help: You can hire an estate tax professional or a CPA to help you plan your estate. You can use an online program for a small estate and a simple plan. However, for larger estates and complex requirements, like child care or business inheritance, you may require the help of a professional.
  • Reassess your estate plan: You can revisit and update your estate plan in case of a change of any circumstances, like marriage, divorce, birth of a child, loss of a family member, etc. It is recommended that you review your estate plan periodically to revise any drafting or planning mistakes. 

Importance of estate planning

estate planning

The following are the significant benefits of a well-thought estate plan. 

  • An estate plan protects the beneficiary’s interests and ensures the assets are passed on to the intended person.
  • Estate plans can protect young children by allowing you to name guardians for children under 18.
  • An estate plan can save several dollars of tax for the heirs by strategically distributing money and assets.
  • Apart from the above, a solid estate plan would allow you to eliminate the risk of family messes over the distribution of property, money, and other assets. Another benefit is that the family members would not have to end up in court to settle a dispute.

Final thoughts

Estate planning is a very effective and valuable tool for those who want to protect the interests of their heirs and safely pass on their property and other assets to them. With an effective estate plan, your heirs do not have to face tax burden either. Moreover, with an estate plan, you can ensure that your children get the due care even when you are not around.