Now that there’s a $5.34 million federal estate-tax exemption — and the exemption is portable between spouses — many people don’t see a need to do estate planning.* But planning is important even if you don’t expect the IRS to take a share of your estate. Here are some planning steps you should consider.
Make a will. Dying without a will (“intestate”) can have unintended consequences. Most notably, your property may not pass to the people you would want to receive it. If you have a will, make sure it reflects your current situation and wishes.
Review asset titling. Know how key assets (home, bank and investment accounts, etc.) are titled and what it means for your estate plan. For example, your interest in property owned jointly with rights of survivorship passes to the surviving joint owner(s) on your death.
Check beneficiary designations. You may have named beneficiaries for certain assets, such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies. Make sure these designations are up to date.
Consider the need for a trust. Living and/or testamentary trusts
can serve a variety of purposes in an estate plan.
Plan for other taxes. Look at ways to minimize the taxes your heirs may owe after your death on capital gains and tax-deferred accounts. Depending on your situation, state estate taxes could be another consideration.
* The IRS periodically adjusts the exemption for inflation. $5.34 million is the 2014 amount