Estate Planning

Proper estate planning could provide income for you and preserve wealth for your heirs. When you retire you need to make plans to ensure your property gets passed to your loved ones quickly and easily upon your death, if you have not already done so. An estate is the property you own, real estate property and personal property, such as investments, retirement savings, life-insurance, business interests, bank accounts, automobiles and household items.

Estate planning documents the distribution of your property to your heirs the way you want it to be done.

If you do not do estate planning, the distribution of your property will be decided by state law.

The best advice I can give you is to contact a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA). If that attorney is also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) you will have a real gem helping you with this important process.

Here is a checklist to help you prepare for your discussion with the attorney.

The qualifications for a Certified Elder Law Attorney are very high, but for this process you don't want to skimp.

Estate Planning Decisions

Now that people are living longer, there are more issues about their future care, such as, future housing. You also need to consider long term housing with the likelihood of increased levels of care as people age.

The first step in the process is to document in one place everything you own. List all your bank accounts, including account numbers and current balances.

List all real estate you own, including the proof of ownership (sometimes a deed) and any mortgage loans with account numbers and balances.

As you do this, note specifically who owns what (you or your spouse) when items are not jointly owned.

Be sure to document everything you own. Obviously, you can have a category of "Household Items", which can be a lump sum and not itemized.

Decide who you want to inherit your assets. Consider any special needs of your family members.

You'll need to decide who you want to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself.

You will want your wishes documented to assist the person you choose to make the decisions for you.

The same holds true for your financial affairs should you ever become incapacitated.

Again, documenting your wishes financially will assist the person you choose to make the decisions for you.

Estate Planning Documents

You will need to have a will created that will define who receives what when you die, who becomes the guardian of any minor-aged children, and who will be the executor of your estate.

A durable financial power of attorney should also be prepared that authorizes someone you specify to handle your financial affairs in case of disability or death. If you become unable to make decisions for yourself and don't have this, your spouse or closest relatives will have to ask a court for authority.

A health care power of attorney is also necessary to authorize someone you specify to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become unable to make decisions on your own. This document should also specify your wishes if you were able to make them on your own. It also allows the person you designate to make end-of-life care decisions on your behalf.

It may also make sense for you to have a trust. Your Certified Elder Law Attorney will help you decide if a trust is right for you. Trusts are legal entities that hold property for someone else. Trusts help avoid probate.

These documents accomplish making your wishes and desires known before the time comes that they are needed.

None of us know when the time will come when they will be needed.

Estate Planning Trusts

There are several different types of trusts, each with different purposes and benefits. Trusts have the benefit of avoiding probate, which can be a costly and lengthy process for your heirs. Click here to learn about these different kinds of trusts (new window will open).

The Charitable Remainder Trust is becoming popular. According to Investopedia, this trust is a tax-exempt irrevocable trust designed to reduce the taxable income of individuals by first dispersing income to the beneficiaries of the trust for a specified period of time and then donating the remainder of the trust to the designated charity.

It enables you to contribute to charity and save on taxes, while providing an income for you during your retirement. This is a win-win-win option. Click here for more information on this type of trust (new window will open).

Other Things to Consider


Everyone can give away up to $12,000 to each child or grandchild per year tax-free. This means a husband and wife together can give $24,000 annually to each child or grandchild. This method enables you to share in the joy your gift can bring.

If you plan on gifting, be sure you have enough money left to maintain your lifestyle.

Living Trusts

Living Trusts are generally created in addition to a will. These trusts allow you to avoid probate, maintain the privacy of your estate, and facilitate the transfer of assets. If you own property in several states, and do not have a living trust, your executor will need to handle probate in each state.

Roth IRA

A Roth IRA is a good retirement and estate planning tool. It enables your retirement savings to increase tax free and does not require that you take minimum withdrawals at 70 1/2 years of age. You are also able to pass this to your heirs giving them tax free income. Your Certified Financial Planner or Certified Elder Law Attorney can help you set this up.

Life Insurance

Be sure that the IRS does not become the beneficiary of your life insurance policy on your death. Ask your Certified Elder Law Attorney about an irrevocable life insurance trust.

Funeral and Burial Plans

At a minimum, you will want to document what your wishes are concerning your funeral and burial. For example, if you prefer to be cremated, but no one is aware of that, your wishes could possibly be not followed. You could go as far as doing the complete arrangements ahead of time. Again, your Certified Elder Law Attorney is the best person to give you advice on this.


The information provided on this website is for informative purposes only. It is strongly recommended that you seek advice for your specific estate planning situation from a Certified Elder Law Attorney, Certified Investment Advisor, a Certified Financial Planner, and a Certified Public Accountant.

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