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Wealth Column: Estate planning basics

Estate planning is an often overlooked element of financial planning.

And we get it. It's easy to put off because it can be morbid and often doesn't kick in until late in our lives, but it's an important piece to be thinking about for those of us who want to make sure our families are provided for.

A carefully prepared estate plan can help you to pursue many goals. As you probably know you can use your estate plan to provide for your spouse, and children, including how they should be handled if young heirs. You can also use an estate plan to dispose of the family business, minimize the effects of taxes on your estate, empower a reliable executor and trustee to invest, and manage the assets in your estate.

Why planning is important

By having a will, which is the basic estate planning tool, you can prevent two costly mistakes: lack of management for your family and the possible loss of large sums of money through needless taxation on your estate. But effective estate planning often requires more than a will.

Other items to consider include the establishment of trusts, your beneficiary designations and life insurance. Life insurance proceeds, for example, usually are not governed by the terms of a will. Neither are benefits payable from retirement plans. Your planning should encompass all the financial resources that can be used to work towards your goals.

Building your plan on a solid foundation

Comprehensive estate planning demands teamwork. By working with a team of specialists who

understand how your estate plan can be affected by taxes, your investments and your retirement income plan, as well as your lawyer, you can be confident that your estate plan is all-encompassing and well thought out. There are a series of steps you should consider when creating a comprehensive estate plan:

• Collect personal data about yourself and your family,

• Prepare a balance sheet of your assets and liabilities,

• Review of your will and any existing trusts,

• Evaluate your estate tax options, such as the best method of disposing of your share of community property—taking into account the unlimited marital deduction and the use of tax-sheltered trusts,

• Consider the best way to distribute your retirement plan benefits,

• Compute potential estate, gift and income tax liabilities,

• Determine the availability of liquid assets to meet potential estate expenses and taxes.

Strategy for wise decisions

After taking these steps, you can start to pull together the beginnings of an estate plan. It may involve changing your will, suggestions for tax savings through the use of trusts, or an adjustment in life insurance coverage. It even may result in suggestions for the orderly transition of the family business from one generation to the next.

Effective estate planning requires teamwork, so it's important that you get have the right one behind you. By working with experienced estate planners, tax planners and financial planners, you can make sure you have the right back up prepared for your family, no matter what may come.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. LPL Financial does not offer tax/legal advice or services.