Traditionally, estate plans were written in order to address taxes, family and charity. With changing tax laws, however, there are more directions in which people may focus with their estate plans.
The prior focus was due to lower estate tax exemptions combined with higher marginal tax rates. Recently, however, couples are able to leave over $10 million estate-tax free, making estate tax considerations less important for many people. Although state intestacy laws often mandate passing assets to family members if a person dies without a will, those who do have wills may choose to pass assets to another person, such as a close friend.
When considering charity donations, people may want to think deeply about the type of charitable goals they have. They could review the needs of those in the private sector or focus on setting up a trust that allows an ongoing charitable benefit to accomplish a particular goal.
Estate planning involves a careful review of a person's wishes and the use of tools that control how assets are passed to intended beneficiaries. A plan can provide an opportunity for people to consider their legacy. In addition to making lists of assets to include in estate planning documents, people may want to have discussions with their estate planning attorney about their goals, intended beneficiaries and any charities they would like to benefit through their wills and trusts. An attorney may then help set up estate planning documents best designed to fulfill those purposes. For example, a simple will might provide for an immediate distribution of assets to family or friends, while a trust could make it possible to make ongoing contributions to a charitable organization.