Estate Planning Essentials

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Estate Planning Essentials|Anchorage AK|Law Office of Jennifer Messick LawAn estate plan protects your family and your finances after you pass away, and your first step to getting that protection is to write a comprehensive will that moves smoothly through the probate process.

Put simply, probate is the method by which your estate is legally transferred when you aren’t around to transfer it yourself.  LearnVest provides some great tips to keep in mind when planning your estate and writing your will, to help the probate process run smoothly:

  • You can be both specific and general in your will. Whether you divide individual items out to people by name or let your beneficiaries decide how to divide your worldly goods, your will is up to you.
  • Be aware of the language of your will, though.  Some state laws have statutes that may override a provision of your will if you say something against the law.  The language of your will is something that would be valuable to discuss with an estate planning attorney.
  • Certain parts of your will “self-adjust” to changes in your estate and your family.  For example, if you don’t update your will after a child is born or if you adopt a child, the will still covers the child just the same as other members of the family so that they aren’t accidently cut out of inheritance.
  • By creating trusts and using will substitutes, you can get around much of the time-consuming and costly process of probate.  This is another area to discuss with an experienced estate planning attorney to determine what is best for you.
  • Be aware that if you own property in another state, like a vacation home or time share, you may need to check in to whether you need to go through probate in that state as well.

With estate planning, taxes are always a concern.  Depending on the value of your estate, you personally may not have to deal with some of the federal taxes.  Your surviving beneficiaries on the other hand may have a substantial amount of tax-related paperwork to file.

The article also offers some simple tips to make you aware of what you may be dealing with from a tax standpoint when you are making an estate plan:

  • Most people don’t have to pay the federal estate tax – also known as the “death tax” – because their estates fall below the federal threshold. But, your estate may be subject to other taxes. An estate planning lawyer will have knowledge of which estate taxes might apply to your estate.
  • The federal gift tax and the federal estate tax are both part of a unified tax system, so it is important to pay attention to both these taxes as you plan your overall estate tax strategy.
  • Be aware that the little-known Estate Recovery Act can devastate your estate if you need to tap in to certain types of government-paid healthcare, especially Medicare.  You can protect your estate if you understand the rules and discuss your plan and all your options with a qualified attorney.

If you think it’s time to start writing your will and otherwise making an estate plan for the future in Anchorage, AK, the experienced estate planning attorneys at Law Office of Jennifer Messick Law are here to help you every step of the way.  Estate planning and probate can be confusing, don’t go it alone.

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About Jenn Messick

I am an attorney practicing at M/V Alaska Law, an Anchorage, AK law firm helping clients all throughout Alaska navigate legal issues in divorce, family law, probate, and bankruptcy. I'm an outdoors person who enjoys hiking, skiing, hunting, spending time with family, and the beautiful scenery in Alaska. Jenn Messick's Google+ Profile

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