November 23, 2017
If you’ve been following the Washington push for tax reform, you may have heard that the federal estate tax could be eliminated. Honestly, chances are that you would never have been impacted by the estate tax. This year it comes into play only when an individual dies with more than $5.49 million in assets. That means a married couple doesn’t have to worry about the federal estate tax unless they have assets of at least $11 million.
But I don’t want any of you to think that estate planning is, or ever was, merely about dealing with estate taxes. Remember, I have always said: People First, Then Money, Then Things.
Suze Orman Estate planning is very much about taking care of people first.
Take care of yourself:
• Do you have an advance directive that will tell your medical team what level of intervention you want if you ever become unable to speak for yourself?:
• Do you have a health care proxy? This document gives someone the formal authority to act as your representative when your medical team is considering your treatment. Your health care proxy will speak up for you–following through on what you have laid out in your advance directive–if you are unable to communicate your wishes directly.
• Do you have a revocable trust with an incapacity clause? That’s what will enable someone you trust to step in and take care of you–and your finances–if you can no longer run things yourself.
Take care of your loved ones:
• Do you have young children? You can appoint a guardian of your choosing if you have a trust. If you die without this in place, a court-appointed judge is going to have a say in who becomes guardian.
• Do you have a revocable living trust? Without one, your heirs may end up in probate court–which takes time and money–to settle your estate.
• Do you have assets from an earlier marriage? If you are remarried, you may have assets you acquired before this marriage that you want to pass along to someone else other than your current spouse.
For example, maybe your new spouse is moving into your house. What happens if you die first? Do you want your spouse to inherit the house, or would you prefer that your spouse remain in the house as long as he/she wants, but it is inherited by a child(ren) from a previous marriage? This is a common situation that can be addressed with some estate planning.