Estate Planning

  • Estate Planning

    Estate planning is about much more than just about creating a Will (your wishes) and considering your eventual transfer of assets. It is a key part of the financial planning process to help maintain and protect both your wealth, health and loved ones in many unique circumstances. 

    What goes into a legacy plan? Besides estate planning basics, it can include an ethical will, in which you explain your beliefs and give life lessons to your heirs. It can provide instructions for the preservation of family history documents and even your “digital” assets and social media accounts. It may integrate a family business succession plan, an education fund, or a foundation to gift charities and other nonprofit groups.

    Many individuals and families we meet with have either not completed their basic will and docs – or have not updated their plan in many years. In the end, your legacy is about how you want to be remembered by your heirs, your colleagues, and your community. It concerns the positive effect your wealth can have on future generations and the world.

    Let’s start a conversation today!  Call us at (561) 210-7887 or contact us (on the form below) to set up your no- obligation estate and financial planning consultation with Jon Ulin, CFP®, Managing Principal. We can work with your financial team (attorney, CPA) to help review, coordinate and implement your estate planning recommendations. 


    We work with our clients and their legal team to review:

    • Will and estate planning techniques
    • Account ownership & beneficiary designation review
    • Developing a tax-appropriate and ongoing portfolio income distribution strategy.
    • Advanced estate planning techniques including trusts (asset transfer, legacy planning)
    • Charitable Giving 
    • Probate and estate settlement cost analysis
    • Guardianship instructions for minors or incapacitated adults in your care.
    • Benefits of the estate and gift tax unified credits along with gifting strategies.
    • Advantages and disadvantages of using a marital trust arrangement
    • Probate expenses and probate expense reduction techniques
    • Planning for future estate tax liquidity for business owners (will assets need to be sold?)
    • Health care and long-term care planning issues
    • Asset Protection strategies for families and business owners 


    10 commonly over-looked obstacles of effective Estate Planning :

    1. Failure to plan (no will or outdated Will along with basic legal docs)
    2. Not having a valid, executed Will in accordance with your state laws
    3. Outdated plan (family additions or subtractions) (tax law changes)
    4. Over-looked provisions if applicable: (guardianship) (simultaneous death provisions)
    5. Improper tax planning (estate tax exposure)
    6. Improper ownership of assets (or not updating beneficiary designations)
    7. Failure to plan for disability, illness or long term care needs
    8. Failure to consider inflation (future estate tax exposure)
    9. Lack of liquidity (in instances of estate tax liability, will assets need to be sold?)
    10. Psychological factors (dealing w/ mortality) (procrastination.)


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    NINE Essential Estate Planning Documents 

    Gathering the necessary information is something you can do on your own, but preparing the estate planning documents is not something you should handle yourself or complete with an online service. A simple oversight can end up costing your estate thousands of dollars in probate costs or create unnecessary tax liabilities for your beneficiaries. The best course of action is preparing your estate planning documents with an experienced  estate lawyer.  Consider the following 9 critical areas to complete. 

    1. Last Will and Testament
    A last will testament are one of the most important estates planning documents because it outlines your final wishes. If you have assets or possessions that you’d like to leave to certain family members, friends, or charities, you can express these wishes in your will.  Without a will, the state will decide how your assets and possessions will be distributed (otherwise known as dying intestate.) 

    2. Guardian Designation
    Did you know that if you fail to name someone as your guardian, that the court could appoint someone that you do not know or have never met to make medical and financial decisions for you? A Preneed guardian designation names someone to act on your behalf if your durable power of attorney and health care surrogate designations fail. Who will care for your dependent child if both you and the child’s other parent should die? If you do not appoint a guardian in your estate plan, the state could make this decision for you.

    3. Advance Healthcare Directive (Durable Power of Attorney for health care)
    If you become incapacitated and cannot make your own medical decisions, an advance healthcare directive will ensure that your last wishes are carried out. Among all of your estate planning documents, an advance healthcare directive (AD) is one of the most important.  An Advanced Directive is a written legal document that outlines your instructions about your medical care if you become incapacitated. With an advanced directive, you can provide written instructions for your future medical care, including life-sustaining treatment if you are permanently unconscious or terminally ill.

    4. Durable Power of Attorney (Financial)
    A durable power of attorney allows you to appoint a person to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated and unable to make these decisions on your own. The agent you appoint will have the authority to step in and make financial decisions for you.  He or she can help t pay your bills, oversee investments and more. 

    5. Revocable Living Trust
    A revocable living trust, also known as a living trust, can be used as an alternative to a living will testament. Much like a will, a living trust dictates your last wishes, but it also dictates what happens if you become incapacitated and allows you to transfer assets to the trust while you are living. While you are living, you – the trustmaker – have the right to undo the trust (hence the term “revocable”). You may reclaim any assets that you transferred to the trust, sell the assets, or place more assets into the trust. 

    A living trust also outlines what will happen if you become incapacitated and can no longer manage your own affairs. You may appoint a successor trustee to step in and manage your affairs on your behalf. Upon your death, your revocable living trust becomes irrevocable. At this point, the successor trustee steps in and carries out your last wishes as outlined by you.  Living trusts offer some advantages over wills. One of the primary advantages is that the details of your estate remain private. A revocable living trust may also be used to avoid probate, which can be a costly and time-consuming process.

    6. Letter of Instruction
    A letter of instruction, also known as a letter of intent, is a document in which you can express your wishes about your funeral arrangements, medical care, or even the distribution of your assets and property. Think of a letter of intent as a way to communicate some of your wishes to your loved ones after your death.

    7. Beneficiary Designations
    A designated beneficiary is the person who will inherit the balance of an account, a life insurance payout, or an annuity. Beneficiary designations ensure that life insurance payouts, account balance, and annuities are inherited by the people of your choosing. You may name multiple beneficiaries if you wish as well as multiple secondary beneficiaries.

    8. List of Important Documents
    Make sure that your family members can find your estate planning documents and other important documents they will need to settle your affairs. Creating a list of these documents and their locations will make it easier for loved ones to carry out their last wishes. Important documents include:
    Bank accounts
    Life insurance policies
    Birth certificates
    Real estate deeds
    Retirement accounts

    9. Provision of Digital Assets
    In today’s digital world, it’s important to include a provision for your digital assets when planning your estate. If your estate plan doesn’t include a provision of digital assets, your loved ones may not be able to access your social media accounts, photos, videos, emails, and other digital items after your death.  Digital assets can include:
    Website domain names
    Electronically stored videos and photos
    Social media accounts

    Consider the following circumstances and facts:

    • Your legacy transcends money, while also encompassing your goals and values for future generations.
    • Guardians are often designated for minor children and beneficiaries in incapacity.
    • Powers of attorney, living wills and HIPPA release forms should be set up for health and financial directives.
    • The beneficiary designations on investment and insurance accounts can set precedence over your will and court of law.
    • How your assets, investment, and insurance accounts are titled and held can set precedence over your will and a court of law.
    • Trusts may not protect your assets from creditors but can help to transfer assets while reducing probate and estate tax issues.
    • Advanced trust and estate planning may be applicable when dealing with minors, spendthrift adults or for special needs planning.
    • Insurance and annuity accounts could protect your assets from lawsuits and creditors in the state of Florida.
    • If you die without a will,  you will be considered “intestate,” whereas the courts will decide on the fate of your estate, health decisions and loved ones under your care.
    • A will does not help you to avoid probate. Probate is the first step in the process of administering your estate under your will while providing public notice, resolving all claims and distributing your property.
    • Different states have different estate tax exemption amounts which supersede Federal exemption amounts. (See below)

    Note on Calculating your Gross Estate

    Estate planning could include maximizing the annual gift tax exemption rule. In 2023, the annual gift tax exclusion amount is $17K per person. This means that if you’re married, you and your spouse can gift up to $34K to each of your children each year without increasing your estate tax exposure. Also, start working with your financial team to help minimize your estate tax liability for 2026 and beyond. 

    Note: Your gross estate includes (IRC sec 2031) includes: The value of all property, real or personal, tangible or intangible of an individual on date of death to the extent of his or her interest in the property plus applicable life insurance proceeds. There are items sometimes not included in the actual deceased will or estate plan or even overlooked, such as outstanding claims from a lawsuit.

    • Have anything that is attached to you on this list including insurance policies.
    • Have the beneficiary information on this list
    • Note ownership of each asset (trust, single, joint, estate, business, etc.)


    17 States With Estate or Inheritance Taxes

    Many states have their own estate tax laws or inheritance tax laws that may be applicable to individuals and families who are exempt from Federal Estate tax regulations.  Consider that where you claim your primary residence in the United States can directly affect your estate taxation.  

    Eleven states have only an estate tax: Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Washington, D.C. does, as well. Estate taxes are levied on the value of a decedent’s assets after debts have been paid. Maine, for example, levies no tax the first $5.8 million of an estate and taxes amounts above that at a rate of 8 percent to a maximum 12 percent.

    Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have only an inheritance tax — that is, a tax on what you receive as the beneficiary of an estate. Kentucky, for example, taxes inheritances at up to 16 percent. Spouses and certain other heirs are typically excluded by states from paying inheritance taxes.

    *Connecticut: Estate tax of 10.8 percent to 12 percent on estates above $7.1 million
    *District of Columbia: Estate tax of 11.2 percent to 16 percent on estates above $4 million
    *Hawaii: Estate tax of 10 percent to 20 percent on estates above $5.5 million
    *Illinois: Estate tax of 0.8 percent to 16 percent on estates above $4 million
    *Iowa: Inheritance tax of up to 15 percent
    *Kentucky: Inheritance tax of up to 16 percent
    *Maine: Estate tax of 8 percent to 12 percent on estates above $5.8 million
    *Maryland: Estate tax of 0.8 percent to 16 percent on estates above $5 million; inheritance tax of up to 10 percent
    *Massachusetts: 0.8 percent to 16 percent on estates above $1 million
    *Minnesota: 13 percent to 16 percent on estates above $3 million
    *Nebraska: Inheritance tax of up to 18 percent
    *New Jersey: Inheritance tax of up to 16 percent
    *New York: Estate tax of 3.06 percent to 16 percent for estates above $5.9 million
    *Oregon: Estate tax of 10 percent to 16 percent on estates above $1 million
    *Pennsylvania: Inheritance tax of up to 15 percent
    *Rhode Island: Estate tax of 0.8 percent to 16 percent on estates above $1.6 million
    *Vermont: Estate tax of 16 percent on estates above $5 million
    *Washington: Estate tax of 10 percent to 20 percent on estates above $2.2 million


    Note: Please consult your tax and/or legal advisor before implementing any tax and/or legal related strategies. IFP and Ulin & Co do not provide tax and/or legal advice.

Ready to take the next step? Contact us to get started today!