Most frequently questions and answers
Estate Planning commonly refers to the standard estate planning documents (Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, Living Will (Revocable Living Trust), Advanced Directive for Healthcare, HIPAA Waivers, etc.). See a description of the Standard Estate Plan here. For high net worth and ultra high net worth individuals, estate planning is more complex and generally incorporates intervivos (lifetime) and testamentary (created under the Will) trusts (GRTs, CRTs, dynasty, etc.). Complex estate planning includes asset protection planning, business succession planning, international estate planning, etc.
We use the term Wealth Planning for the next level of estate planning which is generally applicable to high and ultra high net worth individuals.
Beyond the standard estate plan, if you are high net worth (over $5 million generally), you should consider more sophisticated estate planning or wealth planning. The law in this area is constantly changing and the current tax exclusion amount of $10 million (adjusted for inflation) is set to revert to $5 million (adjusted for inflation) in 2026.
If you are ultra-high net worth (over $30 million generally), you will need a sophisticated estate plan and will likely need complex wealth planning (incorporating lifetime and post-mortem asset protection and tax saving strategies).
Additionally, regardless of your net worth, you may need a sophisticated estate plan if any of the following apply:
– Residency: You are a non-resident U.S. citizen, have dual or more citizenships, plan to relocate abroad (retaining U.S citizenship or expatriating), or are married to or plan to marry a non-citizen.
– Foreign Assets: You own, invest in, inherited or may inherit, foreign or international assets.
– Intellectual Property: You create, own, invest in, or otherwise have an interest in intellectual property: trademarks, copyrights, patents, trade secrets, rights of publicity.
– Authors, actors, athletes, and influencers: You are a creator, actor, performer, athlete or other individual in the talent, entertainment, or sports industry.
– Celebrities and other high-profile individuals: You are famous. Your name, likeness, and image has value –the valuation of your rights of publicity can even exceed the value of all your other assets.
– Business entrepreneurs and owners: You own or otherwise have an interest in a business enterprise, in the U.S. or internationally.
If your net worth (including the full value of any life insurance or retirement accounts) exceeds the federal tax exclusion amount (See Table here), the portion of your estate exceeding the exclusion amount would likely be subject to up to 40% in federal estate taxes. In the few states that still impose a state level estate tax (usually maxing at about 15%), your estate would also be subject to state taxes. Some states also impose an inheritance tax on the transfer of assets to beneficiaries. In addition, if you have foreign or international assets, those assets may be subject to taxes on transfers (by gift, by inheritance, or sale) in the foreign jurisdiction (and may also be subject to tax in the United States).
Yes. Wealth planning is using a sophisticated planning strategies incorporating lifetime gifting, charitable planning, intervivos and testamentary trusts, and business succession planning to significantly reduce (and sometimes even eliminate) the imposition of domestic and foreign taxes on your assets on transfers during your life and post-mortem.
Wealth tax planning involves structuring bequests to your beneficiaries, through a sophisticated customized plan which may include charitable planning (structuring achieving your philanthropic goals through trusts, gifting, and endowments), lifetime gifting, transferring assets through specifically suitable intervivos and testamentary trusts (including dynasty trusts, grantor retained interest trusts, charitable remainder and charitable lead trusts, life insurance trusts, qualified domestic trusts, etc.
Everyone needs an estate plan because the estate plan allows you to control your life and your assets regardless or incapacity or death. It primarily provides the peace of mind that the people you care about are provided for as you intend, your assets are managed and distributed according to your wishes, and your health care decisions are respected and followed.
Standard estate planning documents generally refer to the Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, Living Will (Revocable Living Trust), Advanced Directive for Healthcare, Final Disposition of Remains Provisions, and HIPAA Waivers.
The Last Will and Testament allows you to name persons or entities (together, and in succession) you trust to administer your estate (pay your liabilities, access and transfer your assets to your beneficiaries, and manage any acts post-mortem). The Will also nominates guardians for minor children, can provide for the creation of special needs trusts for beneficiaries and dependents with disabilities, and provide tax deferral on assets that may transfer to to non-citizen spouses. Note that the Will generally only administers probate assets (which do not include retirement accounts, life insurance, joint accounts, etc. – any assets with a beneficiary designation).
The Power of Attorney names a trusted agent (person(s) or entity(ies)) to manage your financial affairs (pay your bills, access your bank accounts, transfer assets, including real estate, employ asset protection strategies, etc.) in case you are incapacitated or disabled. This document often saves the cost of expensive guardianship proceedings and prevents not having access to healthcare, foreclosure on homes, etc. because the appointed agent can take your place to access your accounts and pay the bills.
The Living Will (or Revocable Living Trust) offers more control to the testator. It simplifies creating and holding assets, even non-probate assets in trust for staggered distribution to beneficiaries post-mortem, and limits or eliminates the need for probate. Estate administration through the court usually results in significantly greater costs, governance, and administration duties than if most or all assets are transferred to a trust. During your life, the trust and you are the same. Therefore there are no restrictions on transfer of assets to and from the trust during your life.
Every competent adjust needs at least a standard estate plan. Further, estate planning is imminent when you plan to have or experience a major life event or change in your circumstances: purchase of a home, marriage, children, start, grow, experience or anticipate health issues or treatment, expect or receive an inheritance, purchase or sell significant assets, make or plan to make substantial investments, have a change in your income or financial position, relocate, or change your business structure or your interest.
Contact our office to schedule an appointment and we will walk you through the process. We aim to make the process as flexible and easy as possible. Our secure client portal facilitates providing us with any documents we may need and communicating with us in a timely, efficient, and seamless manner.
Providing us with a general idea of your assets, your personal and financial goals, general idea of your beneficiaries, charitable goals, and a list of any questions you have would enable us to address your needs more effectively from the onset. Additionally, consider the family members, friends, or fiduciaries (professionals or entities) who would act as agent, nominee, guardian, executor, or trustee, as well as their successors, on each of our documents.