Estate Planning: Not Just for the Wealthy

Guest Post by Ronda Gardner, CPA, Hawkins Cloward & Simister

In December 2010, Congress passed a temporary patch to the estate tax law allowing estates up to $5 million to pass tax-free to heirs through 2012. Many people now think they do not need an estate plan. However, estate planning is less often about taxes and most often about families.

Estate planning includes everything from setting up a will and living trust to organizing an elaborate system of trusts to accomplish multiple goals. Here are a few items you should consider when deciding if you need a formal plan.

Children – Do you have a written legal document specifying who should have custody of your children when something happens to you? It is critical that you choose who should be guardian of your children.

Personal Care – Have you specified who should have authority to make decisions regarding your health if you are incapacitated? Do your loved ones know your wishes?

Heirlooms – Do you want to make sure that certain possessions go to certain individuals?

Disinheritance – Second marriages are common today. How can you protect your children from being disinherited through a remarriage?

Asset Protection – Do you want to ensure that the inheritance your children receive is protected from their creditors, including the aftermath of a failed marriage?

Avoiding Contention – Would you like to ensure an orderly transition at your passing and prevent children from becoming adversaries? Don’t let your death kill your family.

Special Needs – Do you have a child who will need lifetime special assistance?

Business Succession – Do you own a business? Do you have a transition plan in place?

These and many other concerns can be addressed through proper planning. Consult a CPA firm to review your personal and financial needs and help direct you to legal professionals who can assist you at the level of planning you need.
Ronda Gardner, CPA is a senior tax consultant at Hawkins Cloward & Simister, one of Utah’s largest independent accounting firms. She is a past president of the local chapter of the Utah Association of CPAs and currently serves on the board of the Utah Valley Estate Planning Council. She and other CPAs may be reached at 801-224-1900 to schedule an appointment for an estate planning review.

This article should not be construed as tax or legal advice from Bank of American Fork. Please seek tax or legal advice from a qualified tax professional or attorney.

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