Estate planning is more than just the distribution of your assets. A proper plan acts as a guide to managing your wealth and as a statement and legacy to your heirs. It communicates your vision and values for your family's future.
The primary documents that communicate your message are typically a Last Will and Testament, Living Trust, Power of Attorney for Property and a Power of Attorney for Health Care. These documents can also be used to avoid gift taxes, estate taxes and probate. Wealthier and complex estates start with these documents and utilize more advanced techniques, such as charitable, grantor retained, insurance and other irrevocable trusts.
Paying gift and estate taxes is voluntary and it is your decision as to how much, if any, you wish to pay. Failure to properly plan may expose your estate to federal and state estate taxes which could consume around half of the value of your taxable assets.