Having an estate plan is a must to have a successful transfer of wealth.  You work hard for your assets, and they should be distributed in the manner in which you intend.  If no estate plan exists your assets are subject to various laws, and processes which slow down the transfer to your intended recipients.

Components of an Estate an Estate Plan

Some of the components in a proper estate plan include the following listed below:

Will- A will is a legal document that allows you to state how you would like your assets to be distributed upon death.

Trust- A trust account is its own entity that is managed by a trustee for the benefit of someone.  It allows you to put in provisions about how the funds will be distributed, and the trustee has a fiduciary responsibility to follow the terms
of the trust.

Life Insurance- A great resource for insuring that future financial needs are met. 

Charitable Giving- As part of your plan you can detail what portion of your assets will go to the organizations
that you care about.

Tax Consideration-
The federal government taxes transfers of wealth in three ways: through the estate tax, the gift tax and the generation-skipping transfer tax. Together these taxes make up the federal transfer tax system. In addition, many U.S. states impose estate taxes.*1  Most relatively simple estates (cash, publicly traded securities, small amounts of other easily valued assets, and no special deductions or elections, or jointly held property) do not require the filing of an estate tax return. A filing is required for estates with combined gross assets and prior taxable gifts exceeding $5,430,000 in 2015.*2

Named Beneficiaries- Naming a beneficiary on an account is the best way to insure that the assets transfer to that individual.  One important thing to note is that having a written beneficiary will override anything written in a will.  Usually assets that have beneficiaries are able to bypass the probate process.  Some of the assets that allow the designation of a beneficiary are: investment accounts with a transfer on death designation, retirement accounts,
trust accounts, and life insurance.  Depending on the setup annuities and bank accounts may also be able to
have beneficiaries.  
Dying Intestate- To die intestate means that the person did not leave a will behind with instructions on how to transfer their assets.  In this case the estate will have to go to probate, and someone will be appointed as an Executor/Administrator to handle the individual’s estate.  This means that the state the individual was a resident of will determine how the assets are distributed according to its laws.  Going through probate can be a costly and time consuming process.  
To Do List:

Name beneficiaries for your assets, and make sure that these get updated if you want the asset to go to a different person in the future.

Understand how your assets will be transferred.

Review your estate plan often, especially when various life events occur.

Seek professional help from a tax advisor and attorney.

*1 http://taxfoundation.org/tax-topics/estate-and-gift-taxes
 *2 http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Estate-Tax



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