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Goals determine planning needs for high-value California estates

An adult lifetime is spent carefully gathering, managing and protecting assets. If you're like many Los Angeles residents with considerable wealth, some or a great deal of those assets will outlive you to benefit the ones you love. Many affluent Californians supplement estate planning documents with trusts, to ensure that heirs and beneficiaries preserve assets wisely and receive the maximum benefits.

Wills and trusts essentially serve the same purpose but in different ways. Among other pluses, trusts give you the power to control the management and distribution of assets during incapacity and beyond death. Trusts help shelter assets from creditors and probate, while decreasing or erasing the estate's - and consequently your heirs' -- tax burden. You control how and when assets are shared with chosen beneficiaries.

Revocable living trusts are active from the moment you create them, unlike wills, which become effective only upon death. Assets are transferred from you to the trust. You or someone you designate manages them. You can add or remove assets or dissolve the trust any time before incapacity or death.

Trusts are available that can accomplish specific goals, like dynasty trusts that extend estate tax savings over generations, credit-shelter trusts, charitable trusts or complex foreign grantor trusts. The trust you require depends on your financial vision of the future and how you would like to maintain it.

Multiple estate planning strategies are often employed to help wealthy individuals achieve their purpose. Estate liquidity is available through life insurance. Proceeds can be used to pay taxes, especially useful for estates containing substantial real estate or business investments.

Affluence does impact the depth of an estate plan, but that doesn't mean that all plans for well-to-do individuals need to be elaborate to be effective. An estate planning attorney can help you achieve the results you have in mind, but you're the one who has to set the financial course.

Source: forbes.com, "What Is Estate Planning?" Russ Alan Prince, Nov. 04, 2013

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