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Estate planning involves deciding “who” should receive “what” of your assets and “when”– both before your death and also after your death– and then determining how best to implement your decisions.
Among the “who” may be governments- in the form of Federal taxes, state taxes, or even foreign taxes. Clients generally prefer that governments receive as little as possible, but accomplishing that goal may take considerable effort.
Sometimes the “who” includes individuals who are unable to look after their own financial affairs- like the young, the infirm, or the incompetent. In those situations it becomes necessary to work out plans for regulating the availability of assets to dependent individuals- choosing someone “to look after” such individuals, and to decide when, if at all, assets should be given outright to dependent individuals.
Sometimes the “who” may include individuals who must receive income or assets- for example, creditors, or, under a divorce judgment, ex-spouses or minor children of a prior marriage. The “who” also can include charities.
Sometimes the “what” involves assets with unusual features- businesses, farms, art collections, patents or copyrights, contracts, out-of-state real estate, or unusual tax characteristics like retirement plans, IRAs, stock options, deferred compensation, partnerships, buy-sell agreements between business owners, and life insurance.
Depending on the particular case, the process of deciding “who” gets “what” can either be relatively simple and straightforward or– based on what the client owns, the kinds of beneficiaries the client wants to benefit after his or her death, the nature of the client’s assets, and, most importantly, what the client wants to accomplish– it can be complicated.
Trusts, Estates and Probation
An important aspect in implementing the client’s decisions is deciding another “who” question- who should control the client’s assets after death and who should be placed in positions of authority over the client’s loved ones. This is where the client must choose executors, trustees, and, in the case of minor children, guardians.
At Kerstein, Coren & Lichtenstein, estate planning involves our listening to what the client wants, making suggestions, and tailoring solutions to your wishes, your intended beneficiaries, and your assets.