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With tax time just behind us, you may be thinking you did well by minimizing what you paid to Uncle Sam and your state in taxes, so more can go to your family.  Every year around tax-time, we’re reminded of how complicated maximizing your money and minimizing tax liabilities can be – and for many people, this seems to be the singular focus for how to preserve assets for loved ones.

Unfortunately, we don’t get much in the way of real information about really preserving our assets through estate planning.  And, regrettably, many of us simply don’t think about it, or maybe think we don’t have enough to make a difference.

Simply put, this is Penny Wise and Pound Foolish – Your family will likely lose more in the costs of estate administration than you can ever overcome with annual tax tricks. 

Truth is, if you have people you love and any assets at all in your name, you do have an estate and it is worth preserving for the people you love. In some cases, that may mean keeping them out of court and out of conflict, if anything happens to you. (Did you know that the biggest family fights happen over the smallest sums of money or even the personal effects of a person who has passed on? Let’s keep that from happening to your family!)  

If you’re concerned about maximizing the amount your heirs receive and minimizing the amount received by governments, there are several steps you can take.

First and foremost, keep your family out of Court. It’s unnecessary, extremely expensive and almost always public. Consider using a Trust to make it easy to handle your assets if you become incapacitated or when you pass on. 

Second, ensure legal documents are in place for trusted family or loved ones to take care of financial, legal and health care issues in the event of any incapacity.  An incapacity without simple legal planning in place can be devastating to a family, both financially and emotionally. 

Third, while most Americans need not worry about the Federal estate and gift tax ($5.49 million in 2017), if you have an estate near or above that level ($10.9 million for married couples) you need to implement tax minimization strategies to avoid the extreme estate tax hit your heirs will experience. Some will need to think about State taxes, as well, if you live in one of the 20 states that impose them. (Wisconsin does not.) 

If you’d like to ensure that you maximize the resources available to your loved ones and keep your family out of Court and out of conflict, schedule a Family Life and Legacy Planning Session.™ We can review your existing plan and help you make adjustments that will help you achieve your goals. 

This article is a service of The Estate Planning Group and Davidson Law Office, LLP, your Life & Legacy Planning Lawyers, who believe in developing trusting relationships with families for life. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.

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