Property Ownership

  • Each state has different rules governing real property. Some states consider property of married persons to be community property. Other states will break out property as either married property or non-married property. Other manners of real property ownership include joint tenancy, tenancy in common and tenancy by the entireties. The type of property ownership can change who the property will go to after its owner’s death.

Age of Beneficiaries

  • If you have minor children, younger than the age of eighteen, they should not simply inherit their shares of your assets. If they do, they will likely have to go through court guardianship proceedings. The appropriate estate plan will incorporate appointing of a guardian or custodian or establish a trust for distribution of their shares of the estate through a Trustee.

Relationship between you and your beneficiaries

  • With almost a 50% divorce rate in this country, many families are composed of varying levels of relationships between children, parents, spouses, etc. creating a non-traditional view of how a family views itself. This non-traditional view may not conform to the rigidity of how the government views your family. A carefully planned will and estate can mitigate those issues.

Choosing alternate executors and trustees

  • Generally, your spouse will be the executor of your will after your death. Sometimes the decedent will not want to add an additional burden to their spouse upon their death and will appoint an executor. Or, in writing your will, you will name a successor executor who will take your spouse’s role if required. If you create a trust, a trustee will be named in your will to oversee the trust. Alternate choices for both of these roles are necessary in the event that your first choice dies first or decline to take the appointment.

Your Spouse's Will

  • Each spouse has an individual will. You should realize that each will may be changed at any time without your knowledge or consent unless there is a contract that states otherwise. Further, many times a couple have wills that work together to limit tax liability.

Value of your Estate and Possible Tax Consequences

  • A well designed estate plan can account for many changes that Congress is contemplating and minimize that impact on your estate. Federal estate taxes can be as high as 55% and can lay claim to estates larger than a Congressionally-set exemption (which is currently in flux right now). It is important to consider the taxes your estate, or your spouse’s, would incur and to plan accordingly. Speaking with your attorney or with a financial advisor can help you determine the best way to arrange your estate in order to avoid paying most of it to the government.

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