How to Avoid 5 Major Errors in Planning Your Estate

1. You Don’t Have A Plan
Many people don’t realize they need a plan. As a result, they fail to make a will or create a Shot of an elderly couple working out a budget while sitting on the living room sofaplan during their lifetime. Neglect to make a plan means the distribution of your assets will be dictated by your state’s law. People who pass without plans are considered intestate. State “intestacy laws” typically leaves a percentage of your estate to your family, but you have no say in how your property is divided or who gets what. Make sure you create a plan so that your lifetime intentions are carried out.

2. Using Online “Do-It-Yourself” for Legal Help
Because the Internet makes it seem easy to prepare a will or trust online, some people do not feel the need to consult an attorney in their planning. However, these “do-it-yourself” plans often fail to consider variations among states’ laws. Worse, many of these plans would not hold up legally if changes occurred in federal tax law. For these reasons, it is important to use an experienced estate attorney when creating your future plan. Please contact us if you would like to be referred to a qualified estate planning attorney who can help you achieve your goals.

3. Failure to Properly Designate Beneficiaries
Have you designated beneficiaries for all of your assets? If so, have you reviewed your designations recently? Most investment accounts allow for the designation of a beneficiary (IRAs, 401(k)s and company plans). Because all of these beneficiary designations absolutely control who receives your assets, it’s important to periodically review your designations. Please contact us if you or your attorney would like a copy of our bequest language for purposes of designating our organization as a beneficiary of your estate.

4. Failure to Maximize Annual Gifts
Gifting your property during your life is perhaps the oldest and best way to minimize future estate taxes. Many people fail to realize the prudence of making annual exclusion gifts each year to family members. Over the long run, you can transfer significant sums of money out of your estate and reduce your taxes. There are also strategies such as charitable lead trusts that can help you leverage your exemptions and allow you to give even more. To learn more about creative ways to help family and charity while reducing your taxes, please contact us.

5. Failure to Take Advantage of the Gift Exemption
Above and beyond the annual exclusion gift limit, you are permitted to make gifts during your life up to the federal gift exemption amount without owing any gift tax. Making lifetime gifts is a simple and effective way to minimize estate taxes. Be sure to act now, and take advantage of the current generous gift exemption. Please contact us if you are interested in including United Methodist Communities in your planning. We can help you create a plan that maximizes your gifts to your family in addition to helping us further our mission.

To learn more, please give us a call at 732-922-9802 x2128 or e-mail Foundation@UMCommunities.org.