For most individuals the first step in planning is to have a
will and testament or living trust prepared that provides for
the disposition of assets after their death and the care of any surviving
After that has been accomplished, there are a number of further
steps to assure that oneís wishes will be carried out both before
and after death. These include
coordinating beneficiary designations with the will or trust so that
assets passing subject to such designations (which often comprise the majority of
value of the estate) will pass according to the wishes of the owner.
Moreover, arrangements should be made for dealing with possible
disability, including the designation in a durable power of attorney and
advance health care directive of those who will make financial and medical
decisions if the individual is no longer able to do so.
important consideration, of course, is minimizing the estate tax that will
be imposed on assets passing at death.
With careful planning, it usually is possible to significantly
reduce this tax burden.
With significant changes in the federal and state laws imposing
such taxes it is very important to build flexibility into any planning
that is done and, for those who already have documents in place, to have
them reviewed in light of the recent changes in the tax laws.