By definition, estate planning is a process designed to help you manage and preserve your assets while you are alive, and to conserve and control their distribution after your death according to your goals and objectives. But what estate planning means to you specifically depends on who you are.
Your age, health, wealth, lifestyle, life stage, goals and many other factors determine your particular estate planning needs. For example, you may have a small estate and may be concerned only that certain people receive particular things. A simple Will may be all you'll need. Or, you may have a large estate, and minimizing any potential estate tax impact is your foremost goal. Here, you'll need to use more sophisticated techniques in your estate plan, such as a trust.
To help you understand what estate planning means to you, the following sections address some estate planning needs that are common among some very broad groups of individuals. Think of these suggestions as simply starting points and then seek professional advice to implement the right plan for you.
Since incapacity can strike anyone at any time, all adults over 18 should consider having:
- A durable Power of Attorney: This document lets you name someone to manage your property for you in case you become incapacitated and cannot do so.
- An advance medical directive: The three main types of advance medical directives are a Living Will, a durable Power of Attorney for health care (also known as a health-care proxy) and a Do Not Resuscitate order. Be aware that not all states allow each kind of medical directive, so make sure you execute one that will be effective for you.
Young and single
If you're young and single, you may not need much estate planning. But if you have some material possessions and/or financial assets, you should at least write a Will. If you don't, the wealth you leave behind if you die will likely go to your parents, and that might not be what you would want.
You've committed to a life partner but aren't legally married. For you, a Will is essential if you want your property to pass to your partner at your death. Without a Will, state law directs that only your closest relatives will inherit your property, and your partner may get nothing. If you share certain property, such as a house or car, you might consider owning the property as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. That way, when one of you dies, the jointly held property will pass to the surviving partner automatically.
For many years, married couples had to do careful estate planning, such as the creation of a credit shelter trust, in order to take advantage of their combined federal estate tax exclusions. A law passed in 2010 allows the executor of a deceased spouse's estate to transfer any unused estate tax exclusion amount to the surviving spouse without such planning, called portability.
You may be inclined to rely on these portability rules for estate tax avoidance, using outright bequests to your spouse instead of traditional trust planning. However, portability should not be relied upon solely for utilization of the first to die's estate tax exclusion, and a credit shelter trust created at the first spouse's death may still be advantageous for several reasons:
- Portability may be lost if the surviving spouse remarries and is later widowed again
- The trust can protect any appreciation of assets from estate tax at the second spouse's death
- The trust can provide protection of assets from the reach of the surviving spouse's creditors
- Portability does not apply to the generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax, so the trust may be needed to fully leverage the GST exemptions of both spouses
Married couples where one spouse is not a U.S. citizen have special planning concerns. The marital deduction is not allowed if the recipient spouse is a non-citizen spouse, but a $164,000 (in 2022) annual exclusion is allowed. If certain requirements are met, however, a transfer to a qualified domestic trust (QDOT) will qualify for the marital deduction.
Married with children
If you're married and have children, you and your spouse should each have your own Will. For you, Wills are vital because you can name a guardian for your minor children in case both of you die simultaneously. If you fail to name a guardian in your Will, a court may appoint someone you might not have chosen. Furthermore, without a Will, some states dictate that at your death some of your property goes to your children and not to your spouse. If minor children inherit directly, the surviving parent may need court permission to manage the money for them. You may also want to consult an attorney about establishing a trust to manage your children's assets.
You may also need life insurance. Your surviving spouse may not be able to support the family on his or her own and may need to replace your earnings to maintain the family.
Comfortable and looking forward to retirement
You've accumulated some wealth and you're thinking about retirement. Here's where estate planning overlaps with retirement planning. It's just as important to plan to care for yourself during your retirement as it is to plan to provide for your beneficiaries after your death. Appropriate beneficiary designation on qualified retirement accounts is crucial to providing for the financial future of partners. And when selecting a pension option, proper planning for a surviving spouse should be considered.
Wealthy and worried
Depending on the size of your estate, you may need to be concerned about estate taxes.
Estates of $12,060,000 (in 2022) are effectively exempt from the federal gift and estate tax, assuming prior gifts have not been used to reduce this exemption. Estates over that amount may be subject to the tax at a top rate of 40 percent.
Similarly, there is another tax, called the generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax, that is imposed on transfers of wealth that are made to grandchildren (and lower generations). The GST tax exemption is $12,060,000 (in 2022) and the GST tax rate is 40 percent.
Whether your estate will be subject to state death taxes depends on the size of your estate and the tax laws in effect in the state in which you are domiciled, or own property.
Elderly or ill
If you're elderly or ill, you'll want to write a Will or update your existing one, consider a revocable Living Trust, and make sure you have a durable Power of Attorney and a health-care directive. Talk with your family about your wishes, and make sure they have copies of your important papers or know where to locate them.
Learn more about how the professionals at Busey Wealth Management can help you create an estate plan designed around your unique situation by visiting busey.com/wealth-management. No matter where you are in life, our advisors are dedicated to helping you enhance and preserve your financial future.
This is not intended to provide legal, tax or accounting advice. Any statement contained in this communication concerning U.S. tax matters is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties imposed on the relevant taxpayer. Clients should obtain their own independent tax advice based on their particular circumstances.
This material is provided for educational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell securities.
This presentation is for general information purposes only. It does not take into account the particular investment objectives, restrictions, tax and financial situation or other needs of any specific client.
Investment products and services through Busey Wealth Management are:
Not FDIC INSURED | May lose value | No bank guarantee