There are five estate planning documents you may need, regardless of your age, health, or wealth: durable power of attorney, advance medical directives, will, letter of instruction, living trust. The last document, a living trust, isn't always required, but it's included here because it's a vital component of many estate plans. Learn more about each of these documents and why they are necessary.
Stocks, bonds, and cash are fundamental components of an investment portfolio. However, many other investments can be used to try to spice up returns or reduce overall portfolio risk. So-called alternative assets have become popular in recent years as a way to provide greater diversification.
Whether you're seeking to manage your own assets, control how your assets are distributed after your death, or plan for incapacity, trusts can help you accomplish your estate planning goals. Their power is in their versatility — many types of trusts exist, each designed for a specific purpose. Although trust law is complex and establishing a trust requires the services of an experienced attorney, mastering the basics isn't hard.
If you give away money or property during your life, those transfers may be subject to federal gift and estate tax and perhaps state gift tax. The money and property you own when you die (i.e., your estate) may also be subject to federal gift and estate tax and some form of state death tax. These property transfers may also be subject to generation–skipping transfer taxes. You should understand all of these taxes, especially since the passage of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (the 2001 Tax Act), the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (the 2010 Tax Act), and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (the 2012 Tax Act). The 2001, 2010, and 2012 Tax Acts contain several changes that make estate planning much easier.
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