Marriott Alumni Magazine

Winter 2015

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Page 29 of 51

Around the Cooler by Megan Bingham Hendrickson Estate of Affairs You might only fantasize about being a lord or lady when a certain period drama graces your screen, but you still have an estate to manage. Whether modest or grand, your earthly assets are just like those of Downton Abbey’s fictional family: you can’t take them with you. Dodge real- life cliff-hangers with this estate-planning primer. While these tips provide an introduction to estate planning, they’re no substitute for a real-life financial planner. Make sure you consult one before taking action. 1. Early Bird Estate planning is not just for wealthy empty nesters. In fact, people with modest assets benefit significantly when they sidestep excess taxes and court costs. Those who are just starting to plan should focus on the basics: creating a will that names a guardian for any children, giving a trusted person financial and medical power of attorney, and securing life insurance. As your finances change, your vision can expand. Just remember that if you don’t have a plan in place, the state will pick one for you. 2. Gift Exchange In 2014 estates totaling less than $5.34 million did not incur federal taxes. Those facing a large tax bill, however, can reduce it by gifting up to $14,000 a year to an individual ($28,000 if you and your spouse give jointly) or by covering someone else’s medical or educational expenses, as long as you directly pay the institution where the costs are incurred. 3. Single File Putting all the important stuff—legal documents, employer benefit information, and contacts for your financial advisers—in one place is a great way to get started. You should also curate a secure list of passwords for electronic files, online accounts, and social media. Let your trustees know how to access this information.

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