Structuring Estate Plans

Many would agree the primary objectives of most estate planning are to avoid probate and paying taxes. But just focusing only on these could mean disaster for surviving relatives.

Traditionally, estate plans are designed to divide the estate to maximize gift and estate transfer options; they defer immediate taxation through alternatives like trusts; otherwise, the estate is simply dropped into the laps of immature, ill-prepared inheritors and depleted. But what if estate planning lived up to its name and was centered on planning for future generations?

Structuring estate plans with family in mind instead of taxes would promote responsibility, good stewardship and family unity. One advisor advocates making estate assets available through grants for specific needs like health, education, home maintenance or support of family members. The estate could also provide enhancement loans and investment opportunities to family members.

A prime example: Family-owned businesses are often passed on from one generation to the next. Unfortunately, only a fraction of them remain viable under the guidance of third or fourth generation family members, usually because those recipients aren’t prepared for the responsibility to enhance the next generation.

By making family the priority, pitfalls like this one might be avoided when establishing estate plans. Not only would it protect estate assets, it also would help surviving family members successfully manage their newly acquired estate.