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What all is entailed by the term “estate planning”?


Estate planning is like financial planning in general in many respects; both deal with issues like taxation, investment, spending, saving and giving. The difference is that estate planning is concerned with how to handle those matters after you die. The goal is to ensure that the loved ones and perhaps charities that you leave behind will benefit as efficiently and fully as possible, with as little as possible being surrendered to tax authorities. The tools are a bit different from those used in general planning. There’s more use of wills and other trusts and, for the very well off, foundations. Those structures help deal with an issue that comes up often in estate planning: maintaining control of assets so that they are more likely to reach their intended destinations when their owner is no longer around to keep an eye on them. Trusts and the like can come in especially handy when dealing with estate taxes, the levies that are assessed on the assets of the deceased. The rules on estate tax have been changing from year to year lately, mainly for political reasons. That has made estate planning problematic, but a good lawyer should still be able to keep the bill to a minimum and make sure that most assets are handled according to their owner’s wishes.
-Conrad de Aenlle