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Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Top Estate Planning Strategies Explained

How can I ensure my assets stay in the family after my death?

Estate planning is essential for people of all ages and income levels.  Without an estate plan in place, your assets could go towards taxes and may be passed to heirs that you would not have selected.  While the federal estate tax limit is high for individuals and couples, states often have lower limits and other fees related to probate can be costly.  Our New York estate planning attorneys offer a look at some of the top estate planning tools you should consider implementing today.

  1. Create a Will:  A will is perhaps the most basic estate planning document, yet fewer than half of all Americans today have one. Without a will, the court will be forced to divide your estate and distribute it to your closest living relatives during probate.  This process can be quite costly and may result in a relative receiving your assets whom you would not have selected.
  2. Make a Trust:  Individuals with a sizeable estate will be wise to consider setting up a trust.  Assets placed within a trust will not need to go through probate, which will keep your money in the hands of your named recipients, rather than the government.  There are many varieties of trusts that each offer different benefits, depending on your precise needs.  Your estate planning lawyer will review your estate to determine what type of trust may be best for you.
  3. Review Your Beneficiaries:  Some assets do not go through probate; rather, assets like life insurance policies and retirement funds will go to your named beneficiary.  Many people fail to name a beneficiary or may forget to update their beneficiary after a major life change, like a divorce.  Every year, take the time to review your beneficiary designations on all of your retirement accounts and your life insurance policy to ensure you are prepared in the event of an accident.
  4. Consider Gifting:  To keep your money in the family, you may wish to consider gifting funds while you are still alive.  You are allowed to give up to $15,000 per person per year in gifts.  This reduces the size of your taxable estate and allows your recipients to receive funds tax free.

Do not delay creating your estate plan any longer.  Contact an estate planning lawyer to get started preserving your assets and protecting your legacy today.


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