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Estate planning tips

Estate planning is not a comfortable topic for a lot of Florida residents. Only 43 percent of Americans have a will although most people understand that a beneficiary must be designated or default state regulations, such as probate court, come into play. Some people don't understand the value of assets they have, such as insurance policies, and have people designated as beneficiaries people with whom they were once close, but are no longer.

A revocable trust can be used to designate beneficiaries of property on death, but a will is still necessary to appoint guardianship of minor children or a judge will decide this personal matter. Some property is passed on through beneficiaries designated on those accounts or documents to inherit those properties at your death, such as deeds with rights of survivorship, insurance policies, 401(k), IRA accounts, or payable-on-death brokerage or savings accounts.

Estate taxes vary from state to state although the federal estate tax and gift tax exemption is $5.25 million. Deadlines do apply and estate tax returns for the deceased must sometimes be filed and can be confusing for the bereaved. Funeral arrangements should be described in a separate letter and given to a trusted family member or friend. Financial documents, insurance policies, deeds, brokerage and bank account statements as well as employee benefit and pension information should be kept organized and accessible to the estate executor.

Estate administration can be a minefield of legal issues. The death of a loved one is an emotional time for heirs and a lawyer can often be of help in navigating estate complexities, distribution of assets, tax responsibilities and probate issues. Consulting assistance in the field of estate planning can save heirs emotional trauma and money as well.

Source: Yahoo Finance, "How to create a bulletproof estate plan", November 12, 2013

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