Most high-net-worth people recognize the importance of estate planning. However, many more business owners and highly compensated individuals don’t have the time or in-depth knowledge to undertake this complex process.
Worse, long hours and weighty responsibilities may tempt some into putting off what they know they should do, but often can’t find the time to get started.
Understanding the basic principles of estate planning can help clear up some of the mystery and provide the necessary impetus to consult with an estate and tax-planning attorney.
Why You Need Estate Planning
You have worked your entire life toward what you have today, and it is important that your hard-earned assets become your legacy and a testament to your efforts. It is also important that you preserve as much of your wealth as possible to transfer to your heirs or to causes that matter to you.
No matter how young and vibrant you may be today, life can change in an instant. You simply cannot risk having your assets eaten up by probate fees and unnecessary tax liabilities. You also do not want to risk having what’s left of your assets go somewhere you never intended.
Aside from the disposition of your estate upon your passing, you need a comprehensive plan in place in the event that you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make your own financial decisions.
The First Steps of Estate Planning
One of the most challenging parts of developing an estate plan is knowing where to start.
Estate planning lawyers begin by helping their clients quantify their assets and determine their goals for the disposition of those assets, both during their lives and after they end.
Assets to be evaluated might include property, stocks, bonds, investment accounts, retirement accounts, insurance policies, business interests and personal property such as art or jewelry.
Disposition of assets could include establishing charitable trusts or gifts, setting up secure legal vehicles to provide for the needs of individual beneficiaries, transferring real property ownership, planning for succession of a business and bequeathing specific items of personal property to specific heirs.
Creating an Estate & Wealth Preservation Plan
Once you have determined what you have and what you hope to do with it during and after your lifetime, your estate planning attorney can explain any potential threats to your accumulated wealth. These might include probate fees, estate and inheritance taxes and transfer taxes. These and other liabilities have the potential to significantly erode your assets, unless you take the proper steps to protect them legally.
Using wills, trusts and other safe, legal strategies, a complex estate planning lawyer can help you establish a comprehensive plan. This may involve powers of attorney, choosing an executor for your estate and selecting trustees as appropriate for your situation.
Your attorney can also assist you in setting up contingency plans in the event of your incapacitation, such as strategies to care for minor children and continuing your business operations.
Cantley Dietrich, a national boutique law firm, assists business owners and high-net-worth individuals with tax planning and compliance as well as asset protection. Contact us today to speak to one of our highly qualified tax advisors to learn more about how we can assist you with complex estate planning.