You’ve worked hard building up a business with many assets that you would like to  pass on to your heirs, unhampered by  hefty taxes, costly fees or regulations. Everyone wants good stewardship of their  assets after they are gone. The question  is, are you prepared? 

“Many producers have still not addressed the issue because of denial, lack  of knowledge or just plain procrastination,” says Doyle Sanders, attorney for Beving,  Swanson & Forrest, Des Moines, Iowa. 

That means intestate succession, which  occurs when you die with no will. it also  usually means increased court costs for  survivors, as well as increased estate  taxes. Further, the family of the surviving spouse may be disinherited. Children are  treated equally, even though their needs  may not be the same. 

There are several things to consider in estate planning. Among the primary  concerns are: 

  • Transfer of assets. 
  • Taxation. 
  • Recipients of assets. 
  • Your care if you become disabled. 
  • Who will be in charge of your business and assets. 
  •  State and federal tax laws. 

“Estate planning is a process whereby  you identify goals and identify variables unique to your situation,” Sanders says. You then determine the tools that can  help you best reach your goals. 

There are many important benefits of estate planning. Among them are: 

  • Proper stewardship of your assets. 
  • Distribution of your property occurs according to your wishes. 
  • Tax savings for your survivors. 
  • Ability to appoint persons to carry on in your absence. 
  • Avoid surprises and unnecessary expenses. 

Estate planning tools come in many forms, each with particular benefi ts and limitations. There are three kinds of wills: the simple will; the contingent trust will; and the two-trust, marital-deduction will. Each has benefi ts and shortfalls that must be evaluated in your particular situation with a qualifi ed estate planner. 

The trust is another important estate planning tool. It is a contractual relationship where a first party (the grantor) transfers assets to a second party (the  trustee) for the benefi t of a third party (the beneficiary). Usually, at the outset, the person establishing the trust wears all of those hats. As your situation changes, those responsibilities and benefits will change without court involvement. You  should discuss the selection of a trust  over, or in addition to, a will with a qualified estate planner. 

Advanced directives are estate planning  tools that may offer benefi ts for your particular situation. They include stand-by powers of attorney for healthcare and  financial decisions, which are important in  the event of disability. 

New laws and regulations are constantly coming into play. “Be aware of  changing regulations and review your estate plan every three years or so,”  Sanders suggests. “Seek the assistance of an expert.” For more information, e-mail