An Estate Planning Overview

Estate planning can be described as the process of transferring assets, during life as well as at death, to ensure that they are distributed in the manner the estate owner wishes. Although saving taxes is a priority, most important is the estate owner's desire to transfer assets to the people he or she wants, in the proper amount and with the proper timing.

Here are just a few things to keep in mind:

  • Too many people die without a valid will, the bedrock of an estate plan, leaving others to guess at what the decedent would have wished.
  • While tax reduction is a legitimate and proper consideration, the benefits of estate planning are not limited to those with taxable estates.
  • Because planning an estate can be complex, always involve the assistance of an attorney who specializes in this area.
  • The planning process should not begin too late. Death often comes unexpectedly, and each of us needs to give thought to how we want to distribute what we own.
  • Charitable giving techniques in an estate plan can help achieve personal goals and reduce taxes, as well as advance a favorite cause in the long run.

The Tax Considerations

For any deaths that occur in the calendar year 2010, federal estate taxes are repealed and will not apply to those estates. Unless further legislation is passed, the estate tax will be reinstated in 2011 with high estate tax rates (up to 55 percent) and an exempt amount of only $1 million. Congress, however, is expected to pass legislation to reinstate federal estate taxes earlier -- possibly in early 2010. What the final legislation will look like is unknown at this point. Check back later for future updates.

Many people are discovering that the values of their estates have been rising over the years, especially if they own publicly traded securities or real estate—assets that have generally appreciated despite the ups and downs of the marketplace. Tax planning should be a consideration in estate planning for more people during these years of uncertainty.

Two keys to good planning for reduction of taxes in an estate are the marital deduction and the charitable deduction. Though married people tend to have more tax-saving options than single people, if saving taxes is important to you, take advantage of the fact that any bequest to a charitable organization is estate tax-free.

Ask Gustavus Adolphus College for Details

We can provide you with information about ways that charitable gifting plans can be incorporated into your estate plans to accomplish your overall objectives. You may find some of them more beneficial than you ever dreamed!

Call us for a confidential, no-obligation discussion of your particular situation. Our goal is to make sure that any gift you make to us is also the best one for you and your family.

Please contact Jackie Peterson at 507-933-7543, or via e-mail at jpeters9@gustavus.edu, for more information.