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others. Because there is no catch all to estate planning, we’ll just be going over the basics. It’s then up to you to meet with your financial advisor and attorney to draft a plan that is right for you.

What’s in an estate? Many things, some of which you may not have even realized. First, everything that you own in your name, such as bank accounts, IRA accounts, your company’s retirement benefits, and life insurance policies. Second, half of everything you own jointly with your spouse. This includes your home (unless you live in a community property state), investments, and bank accounts. Then, your share of anything you own in common, such as property you own with a business partner, is included. If you are the trustee or cus- todian for any trust or custodial accounts, they are included as part of your estate. And finally, everything that you own jointly with anyone except your spouse is included, unless there is proof that the other person helped pay for it.

All of these things combined will make up your estate. Once that figure is determined, the federal (and perhaps state) government will want a share. However, that’s where estate planning comes in. Should you do nothing, the government can take up to 50 percent of your estate in taxes. Wouldn’t you want your children, grandchildren, or other heirs to have your property and money rather than the govern- ment? In order to decide who gets what and to minimize estate taxes, you will need to ensure that you have done some work before you die. I know that death is not a favorite topic of conversation, but, a lit- tle foresight on your part will make your heirs’ lives much easier down the road.


Minimizing estate taxes and transfer costs while providing the great- est possible financial security for your heirs and beneficiaries defines estate planning. This is a very goal-oriented portion of finan- cial planning. One of the main challenges for estate planning is to achieve a high standard of living in your retirement plus preserving as much of your assets as possible to pass on to the next generation. As part of the inheritance maximization, estate planning tries to min- imize the amount of estate taxes your beneficiaries will have to pay.

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