It is important that a client's estate plan is in order. In simplest terms, you need to make sure that when you pass away, your assets are bequeathed or transferred pursuant to your wishes. When we meet with a client, we ask to see his/her Last Will & Testament, Living Wills, Health Care Proxy, any Trust documents and the Beneficiary Designation form of any retirement plans and/or life insurance policies. If these documents have not been completed, we recommend that they visit a professional advisor of their choosing.
Typically, assets pass one of two ways: by operation of law or pursuant to an individual's Will. Generally, a Will speaks to a person's assets that are in his/her name without a specific beneficiary. In other words, if I have a bank account in just my name, then upon my passing, the account would be bequeathed pursuant to my Will. Assets that pass by operation of law are typically joint accounts, TOD (transfer on death) accounts, or retirement accounts/life insurance policies where the funds would go to a named benefit (assuming the named beneficiary is not the estate of the decedent).
Of course, there are exceptions. In addition to a Will, a person can have a Revocable Trust where he/she has re-titled his/her assets to the Trust and the Trust will dictate what happens to the asset upon that person passing away. Further, individuals can transfer assets during their lifetime to a trust or to another individual, but must be mindful of gift tax issues.
It is recommended that you visit with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure your estate plan is set up properly as well as to legally minimize your estate tax liability. Piermont does not provide any legal/tax advice and does not act as an attorney/accountant for its clients. Rather, Piermont works with you and your professional advisor to help you through this process.
If you are interested in learning more about estate and gift tax planning, we would be glad to meet with you.
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