The 12 Secrets of Estate Planning by Kris Miller

The 12 Secrets of Estate Planning

The Best Estate Planning Tip Don’t put it off:

The best estate planning tip is to have one. Take the time now while you are clear and competent to consider the elements of your overall plan for the management of your assets and your care in the event of misfortune to avoid having a court or the state step in and do it for you.

A will is not enough

A will, is a ticket to probate, probate is court and courts take attorneys fees, and court costs. it doesn’t avoid probate of your estate. If you own real estate or have a certain amount of assets according to your states laws you may need a Living Trust.

Fund Your Trust

Make sure all your assets are in the name of the trust and your Powers of Attorney sign the signature card at the bank.

Storing Your Important Papers

Store your papers in a fire proof place, and if you have a safe box make sure your Powers of Attorney have a key and are signed on at bank.

Health Care Proxy

No one plans to be incapacitated, but if you are, who will make health care decisions for you? Only if you complete a health care proxy can you be protected. In a health care proxy, you appoint a trusted individual (and an alternate) to make important medical decisions for you in the event you are unable to Make sure your heath care wishes are respected by completing a health care Power of Attorney and give a copy to your physician.

Naming Alternates

Extend the usefulness of your estate documents by appointing more than one agent to represent your interests. In this way, if your first choice isn’t available, you’ve already provided for one or more alternates, so a choice is not made for you.

Update Your Estate Plan

Things keep changing and you want to stay current: Changes in personal circumstances, economic fortunes and tax laws may warrant revisions.

Protection from Creditors

Safeguard your assets: if you have concerns about your creditors or your children’s’ creditors, consider transferring your assets to a trust to limit creditor access to your assets. Trusts can be drafted with special protective provisions, providing you have not already incurred the debt.


The best deal in asset protection today is the homestead. If you own a home as your primary residence, for a modest fee, you can place protection on your home from creditors up to $500,000.00 (depending on your state) of the equity in your home. Simply contact your attorney to complete and file the necessary documents.

Giving Can Reduce Taxes

Gifts in any amount between spouses are tax free. Gifts are never taxed to the donor. Gift tax laws also permit gifts of $13,000.00 per year (presently) per individual, to any number of recipients with no tax consequences. Also, the direct payment of unlimited medical and education expenses on behalf of another escape taxation. In addition, making gifts now can reduce the size of your estate, and therefore potentially reduce estate taxes upon your death. If the gifts are to charitable institutions, such gifts can also reduce your income taxes in amounts that vary, depending on your income.

Estate Tax Tips

Avoiding probate is not the same as avoiding estate taxes. Just because your assets may be titled in such a way to avoid probate (such as joint ownership or trusts) they may not avoid estate taxation. Only certain types of transfers protect assets from the heavy toll of estate taxes. If you suspect estate taxes may be an issue for you, consult a qualified estate planning attorney to review your options.

Check Your Beneficiary Designation Forms 

Wills and Trusts are not the only documents which govern the disposition of your assets. Insurance policy proceeds and retirement accounts both pass in accordance with the terms of your beneficiary designation form when you die. Make sure the information on these forms is current and accurate to ensure these assets pass to the individual you intend.

Kris Miller

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