Use the Guide
Browse the Guide
Portfolio Discussions
Dr. Kelly's Review
Use the Guide
Guide to Retirement
Client Presentation
Employment & the Fed
Navigating fiscal uncertainty
European Markets
U.S. Recovery
Employment & the Fed
Navigating fiscal uncertainty
European Markets
U.S. Recovery
Featured Topics
Fixed Income
Income Opportunities
U.S. Equities
Global Growth
Looking for other topics? Visit the Library
Choose a Shortcut

Estate Planning

Why create an estate plan?
Prepare for the unexpected

If you become ill or incapacitated, an estate plan specifies exactly how to handle your personal, financial and medical matters.

Control how assets are divided

Your estate consists of everything you own - homes, insurance policies, retirement accounts, investments, bank accounts, cars, collectibles and other personal property. Without the proper planning, state laws dictate what happens to those assets, no matter what you intended to leave to a spouse, child or favorite charity.

Reduce estate taxes

Under current laws for 2013, the first $5.25 million of an estate is exempt from federal estate taxes, with any remaining assets potentially taxed at rates as high as 40%.

Keep assets in the family

An estate plan can provide funds to pay any debts, taxes or expenses you leave behind, so your loved ones aren't forced to sell treasured assets to raise cash.

Avoid probate court

Certain estate strategies avoid a long, expensive probate trial that can cause complications, conflicts and loss of privacy for surviving family members.

Strategies for sound estate planning
Work with qualified professionals

Financial, legal and tax advisors should understand your unique needs and the estate laws in your state.

Don't procrastinate

Start planning now to take advantage of estate strategies only available while you're alive.

Calculate your estate's value

Simply add up everything you own and subtract debts. Repeat this process regularly because asset values are always changing.

Set goals

Who will inherit your assets? When? How? An estate plan should ensure that your wishes are carried out in a timely and tax-efficient manner.

Create your plan

Depending on your situation, advisors may recommend wills, trusts, powers of attorney, insurance policies and other estate planning tools.

Verify account beneficiaries

Beneficiaries on insurance policies,
401(k)s, IRAs and annuities generally inherit those assets no matter what it says in your will.

Review your plan annually

Estate plans should also be reviewed and updated when you move to a state with different laws or experience major lifestyle events. Examples include a change in marital status, death in the family or significant increase in net worth.

Ready to get started?

For more specific information, you can visit, and refer to Publication 950 - Introduction to Estate and Gift Taxes. Consult your advisor or visit our Build your portfolio section for helpful tips on building an investment portfolio to meet your estate needs and other financial goals.

The information above is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for accounting, legal and tax advice or investment recommendations. The views and strategies described may not be suitable to all readers. Please contact your financial professional or tax advisor for additional information.