Plan Your Estate

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Overview

Straightforward, plain English explanations of every significant estate planning option available, all in easy to understand language.


Nolo's bestseller Plan Your Estate shows how to:

  • avoid probate
  • leave property through a will or trust
  • use life insurance to provide for your loved ones
  • name a guardian for children
  • leave property to a young person
  • plan for incapacity
  • implement strategies specific to business owners
  • reduce estate taxes
  • make final arrangements


The 12th edition is completely revised with the latest federal and state laws, including updated information about estate and gift taxes and how recent changes in the law affect estate planning for same sex spouses.

The most comprehensive estate planning book available, from basic probate avoidance techniques to sophisticated tax saving strategies. ". . . excellent source of information on wills and estate planning."--The New York Times.

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Editorial Reviews

U.S. News & World Report
How to protect your family and make an orderly exit even if your estate is small.
Money Magazine
Following Clifford’s advice in this laymen’s guide can save your heirs a bundle.
Washington Times
Probably one of the most comprehensive estate-planning books available to mature adults. It is also written so that everyone can understand new and complex theories, laws, regulations, advantages and disadvantages, with issues ranging from basic estate planning to sophisticated tax-savings strategies.
U.S. News & World Report
How to protect your family and make an orderly exit even if your estate is small.
Los Angeles Times
Plan Your Estate is particularly helpful to the layperson... a clear, comprehensive and even charming book.
From The Critics
Plan Your Estate is particularly helpful to the layperson... a clear, comprehensive and even charming book.
Wall Street Journal
"Nolo's home page is worth bookmarking."
The New York Times
"...excellent source of information on wills and estate planning."
Los Angeles Times
"Plan Your Estate is particularly helpful to the layperson.. a clear, comprehensive and even charming book."
Parenting Magazine
"From the country's leading publisher of do-it-yourself legal guides...get your affairs in order without any help -- or fees -- from lawyers."
CBS News
"Walks you through... provisions you need to consider for your situation."
The Wall Street Journal
"An exhaustive guide, explaining everything from simple wills to complex trusts. Particularly helpful are a series of 'profiles' that illustrate how estate plans can benefit various individuals and families."
The New York Times
"An excellent source of information on wills and estate planning."
CBS MoneyWatch
"...can walk you through making a will and provisions you need to consider for your situation"
Eric Tyson
Among my favorite resources for explaining trusts and other aspects of estate planning...
From the Publisher

" An excellent source of information on wills and estate planning. " The New York Times

Kiplinger's Retirement Report
Comprehensive, up to date and organized to make it easy to find the information you want.... clearly explain the nuts and bolts of estate planning.
Los Angeles Times
Plan Your Estate is particularly helpful to the layperson... a clear, comprehensive and even charming book.
Money Magazine
Following Clifford's advice in this laymen's guide can save your heirs a bundle.
Small Business Opportunities
A comprehensive guide that will enable you to put together a plan that's right for you and your family.
U.S. News & World Report
How to protect your family and make an orderly exit even if your estate is small.
Washington Times
Probably one of the most comprehensive estate-planning books available to mature adults. It is also written so that everyone can understand new and complex theories, laws, regulations, advantages and disadvantages, with issues ranging from basic estate planning to sophisticated tax-savings strategies.
Chicago Tribune
A superb book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781413320190
  • Publisher: NOLO
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 12
  • Pages: 530
  • Sales rank: 740,191
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author

Denis Clifford, a graduate of Columbia Law School, where he was an editor of The Law Review, is a lawyer who specializes in estate planning. He is the author of many Nolo titles, including Quick and Legal Will Book, Make Your Own Living Trust and Plan Your Estate and coauthor of A Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples. He has been interviewed by such major media as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Money Magazine.
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Read an Excerpt

Personal Concerns and Estate Planning

Underlying the creation of any estate plan are profound human concerns: a primal urge for order and the desire to pass on property to loved ones. A good estate plan is an accurate reflection of your deepest personal wishes. Although much of this book is about mechanics, methods and documents, it's important to remember that no matter how well you deal with legal devices, your estate plan won't succeed unless you take human concerns into account, too.

We make no claim to being experts on the psyche. Indeed, we are wary of "experts" (or anyone) who claim precise understanding of something as complex and mysterious as human beings. Happily, you don't need an expert to cope with the human realities that can come up in your estate planning. You do need common sense and candor about the strengths, weaknesses and genuine needs of close family members, and perhaps friends as well. Legal aspects of estate planning are significant, of course (that's why we're here), but should never interfere with what you know in your heart needs to be done.

Many people face no serious personal problems in their estate planning. They know who they want to leave their property to. They do not foresee any possibility of conflict between their beneficiaries, nor threat of a lawsuit by someone claiming they were illegally denied their inheritance. On the human level, these people can, happily, focus on the satisfactions they expect their gifts to bring.

Other people's situations are not so clear and straightforward. They must deal with more difficult human dynamics, such as possibilities of family conflicts, or dividing property unequally between children, or providing care for minor children, or handling complexities arising from second or subsequent marriages.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: How to Use This Book
A How This Book Works 3
B Will You Need Professional Help? 4
C Other Nolo Resources 5
Part I Setting Your Goals
1 Selecting Your Estate Planning Goals
Part I Setting Your Goals 2
Part II Laying the Groundwork 2
Part III Children 4
Part IV Wills 4
Part V Probate and How to Avoid It 5
Part VI Understanding Estate and Gift Taxes 6
Part VII Reducing or Eliminating Estate Taxes 8
Part VIII Imposing Controls Over Property 9
Part IX Taking Care of Personal Issues 9
Part X Family Business Estate Planning 11
Part XI Going Further 11
Part XII Sample Estate Plans 11
2 Personal Concerns and Estate Planning
A Avoiding Conflict 2
B Leaving Unequal Amounts of Property to Children 5
C Providing Care for Minor Children 7
D Subsequent Marriages 8
E Long-Term Care for a Child With Special Needs 10
F Concerns of Unmarried Couples 11
G Worries About the Effect of Inheriting Money 12
H Disinheriting People, Including Children 13
I Communicating Your Decisions to Family and Friends 14
Part II Laying the Groundwork
3 Special Property Ownership Rules for Married People
A What You Need to Know 3
B Marital Property in Community Property States 5
C Marital Property in Common Law States 8
D Moving to a Different State 10
4 Inventorying Your Property
A Instructions for the Property Inventory Worksheet 2
B Your Property Worksheet 10
5 Your Beneficiaries
A Types of Beneficiaries 3
B Primary Beneficiaries 3
C Life Estate Beneficiaries and Final Beneficiaries 6
D Alternate Beneficiaries 6
E Residuary Beneficiaries 7
F Gifts Shared by More Than One Beneficiary 7
G Establishing a Survivorship Period 8
H Explanations and Commentary Accompanying Gifts 8
I Disinheritance 9
J Simultaneous Death 10
K Property You Give Away by Will or Trust That You No Longer Own at Your Death 11
Part III Children
6 Children
A Naming Someone to Take Custody of Your Minor Children 2
B Naming an Adult to Manage Your Child's Property 5
C How Your Children's Property Should Be Managed 6
D Tax Saving Educational Investment Plans 14
E Naming Children as Beneficiaries of Life Insurance 15
F Leaving Property to Children Who Are Not Your Own 16
G Disinheritance 17
Part IV Wills
7 Wills
A A Will as the Centerpiece of Your Estate Plan 2
B A Backup Will With a Comprehensive Estate Plan 2
C What Makes a Will Legal? 4
D Types of Wills 5
E What Property Cannot Be Transferred by Will? 8
F Explanatory Letters Accompanying Your Will 9
G Can My Will Be Successfully Challenged? 10
H Keeping Your Will Up to Date 10
Part V Probate and How to Avoid It
8 Probate and Why You Want to Avoid It
A What Is Probate? 2
B Probate Fees 3
C Avoiding Probate 4
D When You May Want Probate 8
E Debts, Taxes, and Probate Avoidance 8
F Probate Reform 9
9 Living Trusts
A Does Everyone Need a Living Trust? 2
B Living Trusts Explained 4
C Major Decisions in Creating a Living Trust 8
D Creating a Valid Living Trust 13
E Keeping Your Living Trust Up to Date 16
10 Joint Tenancy and Tenancy by the Entirety
A What Is Joint Tenancy? 2
B Joint Tenancy Bank Accounts 3
C Joint Tenancy Safe Deposit Boxes 4
D Tenancy by the Entirety 5
E Joint Tenancy in Community Property States 5
F Tax Concerns Affecting Joint Tenancy 7
G Drawbacks of Joint Tenancy 12
H When Joint Tenancy Makes Sense 13
I Creating a Joint Tenancy for Property With Documents of Title 15
J Creating Joint Tenancy for Personal Property Without Documents of Title 16
11 Pay-on-Death Designations
A Choosing Beneficiaries 2
B Pay-on-Death Bank Accounts 3
C Naming a Pay-on-Death Beneficiary for Government Securities 5
D Naming a Beneficiary for Stocks and Bonds 5
E Car Registration 6
F Transfer of Death Deeds for Real Estate 6
12 Life Insurance
A Do You Need Life Insurance? 2
B Types of Life Insurance 5
C Life Insurance and Probate 10
D Choosing Life Insurance Beneficiaries 10
E Reducing Estate Tax by Transferring Ownership of Life Insurance Policies 11
13 Retirement Benefits
A Social Security 2
B Individual Retirement Plans 3
C Pensions 6
D When You Retire 7
E Choosing Beneficiaries for Your Retirement Plans 8
F Using Disclaimers for Retirement Accounts 11
G Probate and Taxes 11
14 State Law Exemptions From Normal Probate
A Will Your Estate Qualify? 2
B Using These Rules to Plan 3
C Summary of State Law Exceptions to Normal Probate 3
D California Exemptions From Normal Probate 7
E New York Exemptions From Normal Probate 9
F Texas Exemptions From Normal Probate 10
G Florida Exemptions From Normal Probate 10
Part VI Understanding Estate and Gift Taxes
15 Estate Taxes
A Federal Estate Tax Exemptions 2
B The Big Picture: Estate and Gift Taxes 4
C Will Your Estate Have to Pay Taxes? 6
D Calculating and Paying Estate Taxes 9
E Reducing Federal Estate Taxes 13
F The Federal Income Tax Basis of Inherited Property 14
G State Inheritance and Estate Taxes 17
16 Gifts and Gift Taxes
A The Federal Gift Tax: An Overview 2
B What Is a Goft? 4
C How Federal Gift Tax Works 7
D Using Gifts to Reduce Estate Taxes 9
E When Not to Give Property Away: Tax Basis Rules 15
F Using Gifts to Reduce Income Taxes 16
Part VII Reducing or Eliminating Estate Taxes
17 An Overview of Ongoing Trusts
A Trusts to Reduce Estate Tax 2
B Ongoing Trusts Used to Control Property 3
C Ongoing Trusts and Avoiding Probate 4
D What Ongoing Trusts Can't Do 5
E When Ongoing Trusts Begin and End 5
F The Trustee 6
G Taxation of Ongoing Trusts 11
18 Estate Tax-Saving Bypass Trusts
A Overview of Bypass Trusts 2
B IRS Restrictions on Bypass Trusts 4
C AB Trusts: Bypass Trusts for Married Couples 6
D Bypass Trusts for Unmarried People 18
19 Other Estate Tax-Saving Marital Trusts
A QTIP Trusts 2
B Trusts for Noncitizen Spouses: QDOTs 13
C Marital Deduction Trusts 15
20 Charitable Trusts
A An Overview of Charitable Trusts 2
B The Income Tax Deduction 4
C A Closer Look at Charitable Remainder Trusts 7
D A Closer Look at Charitable Lead Trusts 12
E Types of Charitable Trusts: A Comparison 15
21 Other Estate Tax-Saving Trusts
A Generation-Skipping Trusts (GSTT Trusts) 2
B Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts 8
C Grantor-Retained Interest Trusts: GRATs, GRUTs, and GRITs 10
22 Disclaimers: After-Death Estate Tax Planning
A Advantages of Disclaimers 2
B Couples and Disclaimers 4
C IRS Rules for Disclaimers 5
D Disclaimers and Living Trusts 8
23 Combining Estate Tax-Saving Trusts
A Combining Two Estate Tax-Saving Trusts 2
B Combining a Charitable Trust With Other Estate Tax-Saving Trusts 4
C Combining Three Different Estate Tax-Saving Trusts 5
D Using Ongoing Trusts and Gift-Giving to Reduce Estate Tax 6
Part VIII Imposing Controls Over Property
24 Property Control Trusts for Second or Subsequent Marriages
A Evaluating Your Situation 2
B How a Marital Property Control Trust Works 3
C Restricting the Surviving Spouse's Rights Over Trust Property 5
D The Role of the Trustee 6
E Savings on Estate Taxes 8
F Working With a Lawyer 9
25 Trusts and Other Devices for Imposing Controls Over Property
A Educational Trusts 3
B Trusts for People With Special Needs 4
C Spendthrift Trusts 6
D Sprinkling Trusts 7
E Trusts to Manage Your Own Property 9
F Powers of Appointment 10
G Combining a Property Control Trust With Estate Tax-Saving Trusts 12
Part IX Taking Care of Personal Issues
26 Incapacity: Making Medical and Financial Decisions
A Medical Decisions 2
B Financial Decisions 9
C Guardianships and Conservatorships 12
27 Body and Organ Donation, Funerals and Burials
A Making Your Own Choices 2
B Leaving Written Instructions 3
C Donating Your Body or Organs 4
D Death Notices 4
E Services and Ceremonies Following a Death 5
F Funerals 6
G Cremation 9
H Burials 9
Part X Family Business Estate Planning
28 Family Business Estate Planning
A Operation of the Business 2
B Reducing Estate Taxes 5
C Avoiding Probate of a Family Business 9
Part XI Going Further
29 Using Lawyers
A Hiring a Lawyer 2
B Doing Your Own Research 6
30 After You Complete Your Estate Plan
A Storing Your Estate Planning Documents 2
B Revising Your Estate Plan 3
31 After a Death Occurs
A Wills 2
B Probate-Avoidance Living Trusts 2
C Ongoing Trusts for Estate Tax Savings or Property Management 4
D Preparing and Filing Tax Returns 5
E Trustee's Reports to Beneficiaries 6
F Collecting the Proceeds of a Life Insurance Policy 6
G Obtaining Title to Joint Tenancy Property 7
Part XII Sample Estate Plans
32 Some Estate Plans
A A Prosperous Couple in Their 60s and 70s 2
B A Wealthy Couple in Their 70s 2
C A Single Man in His 60s 3
D A Younger Couple 4
E A Widow in Her 80s 5
F A Couple in Their 60s, in a Second Marriage 6
G An Unmarried Couple in Their 40s 7
Glossary
Appendix State Inheritance Tax Rules
Index
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