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Different Kinds of Assets to Consider When Estate Planning

Estate planning is important for everyone in Michigan, regardless of your annual income or the amount of property you own. There are many different kinds of assets that exist, and through estate planning, you can help to minimize the financial burdens associated with certain assets, and you can also help to protect certain assets for your beneficiaries.

Before you begin the estate planning process, you should compile a list of all of your assets. What assets should be on this list? A pamphlet from Fidelity Investments lists some of the following common assets for people who want to begin the estate planning process:

  • Your financial accounts;
  • Real estate;
  • Businesses; and
  • Other valuable personal possessions.

Depending on the type and amount of assets you own, you may want to treat some of these assets differently for the purposes of estate planning. An estate planning attorney in Grand Rapids can help you determine which of your assets may be exempt from probate, which assets will be subject to estate tax, and the expected total tax burden of your estate.

Financial Accounts

There are many different types of financial accounts, including but not limited to:

  • Checking accounts;
  • Investment accounts; and
  • Retirement accounts.

It is important to recognize up front that a significant amount of money held in a checking or investment account can be subject to significant taxes, and you may want to consider a trust to minimize estate taxes.

As an article in Forbes Magazine points out, one key to ensuring that the contents of accounts are distributed according to your wishes is properly titling your assets and reviewing your beneficiary designations. Many investment accounts such as IRAs or 401(k)s, according to the Forbes Magazine article, permit a designation of a beneficiary. Why would you want to have beneficiary designated property? As a pamphlet from the State Bar of Michigan underscores, this type of property does not have to go through the probate process. In addition, many accounts that are owned jointly—for instance, an account titled in the name of more than just the decedent—may also be exempt from probate.

Real Estate, Real Property, and Other Valuable Property

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When you own a home or another piece of property, it is important to think carefully about how your property is titled. As we mentioned above, property owned by two persons as “joint tenants with right of survivorship” will allow that property, upon the death of one of those persons, to pass to the survivor without going through probate.

Real estate and real property can include a family home, a vacation house, a condominium, and even rental property. In the estate planning process, you should keep in mind that the value of any real property will need to be assessed, and that value will be added to your estate (which is taxable).

Other personal property, not unlike real property, will also need to have the value assessed. There may be ways to avoid probate on valuable items such as automobiles, jewelry, or art, but this can be more complicated than simply co-owning a family or a vacation home.

Business Property

Business property will need to be accounted for in a way that is different from your personal real property or other individual assets. Indeed, business property has its own complicated factors, and it is important to speak with an experienced Michigan estate planning lawyer to determine the best business succession plan.

Seeking Assistance from a Michigan Asset Protection Attorney

When it comes to estate planning and including particular assets, most people want to make sure their property is distributed to the right beneficiary, and most people also want to make sure that they minimize taxes and costs associated with distribution of that property. A dedicated Michigan estate planning attorney can discuss your options for setting up a trust, as well as other ways in which you may be able to ensure that certain assets are exempt from the probate process. Contact the Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C. today to get started.