Estate planning is a process that involves a range of options, it is not a single activity that you perform and you are done. Contrary to popular belief, estate planning does not start at the death of an individual, it is a lifelong process. It is developed and revisited several times during a lifetime to ensure that its objectives are consistent. Estate planning shows opportunities for significant tax savings but it is more than mere tax planning. Here are a few estate planning activities:
The first thing, that many people think being the whole estate planning, is to ensure that the estate is used and distributed, before and after owner’s death, in ways that fulfill the owner’s desires. Secondly, estate planning aims to ensure a sufficiently large estate so that the desired level of financial security is achieved, before and after the owner’s death. Importantly, estate planning aims to maximize after-tax payouts, incomes and estate assets. Finally, estate planning directs the distribution of owner’s estate as per their intentions.
The importance of estate planning cannot be overemphasized and there are several articles written in this regard. Here is a good one:
There are several tools for estate planning:
Drawing up a will. This is the most basic step. If a person dies without a will, the assets of the deceased are distributed as per provincial family property law and provincial intestate succession laws that may not be the most desirable outcome in terms of deceased wishes or tax minimization. Buy sell agreements. If you are involved in a partnership, a member of a multiple member limited liability company, or a shareholder in a small corporation, you should have a thorough and carefully drafted plan in the event of the death or disability of an owner or in the event an owner wishes to sell or transfer his or her interest in the company. Such an agreement, known as a buy-sell agreement, provides certain rules and a method for valuation of an individual’s interest in the business at the time of transfer. A well prepared business buyout agreement should provide for any conceivable change in ownership and should contain certain provisions, including when and how to allow an owner to request a buyout, when a buyout should be required (death, disability, divorce, bankruptcy or retirement), restrictions on who can buy into the company, how to value the company and each owner’s interest, payment terms, and options for funding future buyouts.
Gifts. Gifting our assets, inter vivos gifts, are important tools available for estate planning. Properly structuring this aspect, you may be able to reduce taxes at death.
Setting up trusts. There are many advantages to creating a trust. For example, your family can save money on probate and taxes, and you can put a more detailed plan in place to manage your property after you are gone. One of these advantages to creating a trust may be more important to you and your family than another.
Joint ownership. Jointly owned property, do not pass through a will. Instead, when one joint owner dies, the property passes directly to the other joint owner. This transfer is immediate, and no probate process is necessary. There are many different types of property that you can own jointly, including bank accounts, family cars, and homes. Particularly in old age, people hold bank accounts or stocks in joint ownership with their spouse, with one or more children, or with friends. Should you put property in joint ownership as part of your estate plan? The answer depends on your circumstances. Most lawyers urge caution.
Insurance. Life insurance is present in almost every estate plan and serves as a source of support, education-expense coverage and liquidity to pay death taxes, pay expenses, fund business buy-sell agreements and sometimes to fund retirement plans.
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