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Tips for developing an estate plan

In the minds of many people in Florida and across the nation, estate planning is about as glamorous as doing taxes. In order to pass on wealth to the next generation or designated beneficiaries, most people need more than wills in today's legal climate.

First, people should seek out an estate planning attorney with a history of satisfied clients and a track record of success. In addition to a will, clients will need a living will and should implement a revocable trust in order to speed up the probate process. The client will also need to designate someone with power of attorney.

Second, individuals will need to determine all of their assets, possibly with the help of a financial planner. This includes a review of designated beneficiaries. Third, the person will need to think about their long-term goals as they assign wealth to their heirs. In addition to amounts, they might want to look at setting up a trust, especially for a younger person who may not have the ability to handle the money. For charitable donations, a financial adviser can work with an attorney in order to devise a specific strategy.

Fourth, the person will need to consider the tax implications. Estates valued at up to $5.25 million, or twice that amount for married couples, don't pay federal estate taxes as of 2013. Amounts over that threshold are taxed at 40 percent, so a financial adviser can help plan for that liability. Fifth, review the plan regularly to make any needed changes. In addition to major life events, people should plan periodic reviews according to a schedule they determine with their financial planner and attorney.

Estate planning can be critical to the future of a person's heirs. An estate planning lawyer might be able to help clients with the legal process.

Source: Northwest Herald, "Five steps to take in devising an estate plan", Patrick S. O’Connor, July 06, 2013

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