A personally tailored estate plan helps ensure that your property will be distributed in accordance with your wishes.
Due to the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, the estate tax exemption is estimated to be $11.2 million in 2018. This amount is subject to change. However, just because an estate is less than $11.2 million does not mean estate planning is unnecessary. Coordinating the affairs of a loved one without an estate plan can be a difficult and time-consuming administrative burden for the survivors.
While you will need an estate planning professional to help you plan your estate, you can take some steps to start the process:
Make sure you have an up-to-date will and name an executor. This is the person who will manage the distribution of your assets after your death. Designate heirs for those assets for which no beneficiary is named (trusts, insurance policies, and IRAs include beneficiary designations). Identify a guardian for any minor children. Review your will annually or whenever you experience a major life change (divorce, death of a spouse or child, move to another state, change in financial status, etc.); or if the government passes laws regarding inheritance, taxes or trusts. Keep in mind, a will does not help your estate avoid probate or reduce estate taxes.
Consider gifting as a way to reduce taxes. You may give $15,000 annually free from taxes to any number of individuals. You may also make unlimited payments for medical or tuition costs directly to the service provider with no gift tax liability.
Consider using trusts to transfer ownership of property to others. Trusts can eliminate the need for probate, provide instructions for your care should you become incapacitated and potentially reduce estate taxes. Many types of trusts exist, each offering varying degrees of control and shelter from taxation.
Keep good records. Make copies of your will, trust documents, a list of assets and obligations (loans, credit card statements, etc.), insurance policies, investment accounts, and the names and telephone numbers of any professional advisors, such as a financial advisor, lawyer, and accountant. Store this information in a safe place, and let your loved ones know where you keep it. Your BB&T Scott & Stringfellow Financial Advisor can assist you in compiling and storing this information. Ask for a Life Planning checklist.