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Retirement and estate planning basics

Most people in Texas don't like to think about growing older and the end of life, but as the responsibility for funding retirement shifts to the individual it has become more important. Pensions are becoming increasingly rare as companies and the government move away from offering them, and private retirement savings and accounts are becoming an important asset.

Planning is becoming necessary for the average individual as well as the wealthy as assets need to be properly managed to provide the maximum benefit and the least loss. Transferring wealth to heirs can impose heavy tax burdens if not properly carried out.

There are many ways to manage assets and plan for the decreasing capacities of old age without simply handing over property for others to control. Identifying assets and having an updated list of beneficiaries is crucial. Insurance policies, pensions and retirement accounts may have beneficiaries listed who are no longer appropriate, such as ex-spouses or deceased individuals. Naming financial and medical powers-of-attorney and guardians for dependents should be carefully considered and loved ones chosen who will follow the wishes of those selecting them. Re-assessing these factors periodically and updating the documents accordingly is vital.

Estate planning is more than merely making a will, although that document is its foundation. Wealth protection requires a comprehensive plan, with consideration of the types of assets and any particular tax laws applying to them as well as inheritance laws. Proper distribution of assets while hopefully avoiding probate and will contests requires careful planning. Preserving assets so they are inherited by those meant to have them or are available as needed is an important part of this strategy.

Source: Fox Business, "4 Tips to Begin the Estate-Planning Process", Kathryn Buschman Vasel, November 22, 2013

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