10 important issues in estate planning

Estate planning can often be a daunting task for individuals unsure of how or where to begin. Especially where family and/or financial situations are complex, estate planning can be tricky. And even though many have a basic understanding of their estate planning goals, some are not entirely sure of what their own priorities are in getting their estate in order.

A recent article in Statesman Journal, a publication from Salem, Oregon, discussed a top ten list of priorities in estate planning. While that list will probably not be exactly the same for every individual or for every estate planning attorney, many of the issues presented there are clearly among the most important matters to consider in formulating an estate plan.

The top ten list of estate planning priorities runs as follows:

•1. Maintaining family harmony in the disposition of assets and selection of executors, trustees, guardians, etc.

•2. Avoiding probate where possible

•3. Taking advantage of asset protection opportunities, particularly for special needs family members

•4. Achieving optimal tax savings in regard to estate, gift, inheritance, income, capital gains, and generation skipping transfer taxes

•5. Keeping attorney's fees low

•6. Naming alternate executors and trustees

•7. Updating beneficiary designations

•8. Reviewing, and potentially closing out, accounts owned jointly with children

•9. Determining whether your estate planning needs are better met by a trust-based plan

•10. Starting before it is too late

Because laws vary from state to state, particularly in regard to the probate process and taxation issues, it is important to consult a local attorney who is an expert in estate planning. Doing so will not only ensure that your estate plan is put together in the most cost-effective way possible, it will also ensure that your particular estate planning goals are adequately met.

Source: Journal, "Top 10 estate planning concerns," Eden rose Brown, 3 June 2011.

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