David Lerner Associates News

An Overview of Estate Planning

Core Facts

Friday, March 9, 2018

As one gets older, it is important to consider one’s legacy — what is being left behind. A basic estate plan is an important financial document for everyone to have, whether you think you need one or not Here's why:

Planning for the future is something that we should all be doing. But approximately 55% of American adults do not have a will or other estate plan in place. This number has stayed relatively even during the 2000s, even as the number of other estate planning documents Americans have, like medical directives, increased. Among minorities, the numbers are higher than in the general population – 68% of African American adults and 74% of Hispanic adults do not have one. [1]

With few exceptions, everyone has an estate -- even the young child with a bank account in his name that his grandparents set up, or the coming-of-age youngster who received a piece of jewelry as a birthday gift.

If you own something of value that you would like to pass on to someone else upon your death, you have an estate. Whether you like it or not, you should have an estate plan. The state has a plan if you don't get around to writing a will or designing a plan of your own.

An estate plan entails the accumulation, conservation, and distribution of assets in an estate. A good plan will enhance and maintain the financial security of individuals and their families.


A will is a personal declaration of your intentions about the disposition of your property at death. Everybody should have one.

Because a will does not become legally enforceable until your death, it may be changed at any time before the maker's, or testator's, death or mental incompetence. A properly drafted will contains instructions for your personal representative, the executor. The executor is responsible for administering your estate.

A will offers many advantages, enabling you to control, to a large extent, what happens after you're gone.

With a will you can choose the executor, designate a guardian for minor children or others unable to fully care for themselves, distribute your property to beneficiaries you choose, be generous to charity at death, minimize estate tax, and have a sense of peace of mind, knowing that your assets will be distributed as you wish.


Trusts involve the transfer of your property to an individual or corporate trustee who manages the assets within the trust's control for the benefit of one or more others -- the beneficiaries.

Gift Tax

Gifts are gratuitous transfers you make during your lifetime. The annual gift tax exclusion is a silver lining that the gift tax rules allow. In 2018 you can annually make as many gifts of $15,000 to as many recipients as you can afford without those gifts even being a blip on the gift tax screen. [2] These lifetime gratuitous transfers are completely gift tax-free. The amount is periodically adjusted for inflation.

In addition, in 2018 you may "gift-split" with your spouse, $30,000 can pass to each child, grandchild, or any other person you choose. The recipients don't have to be related to you. Some people have referred to an annual exclusion gifting program as "the poor man's estate plan" because it effectively reduces the value of your estate without any interference from Uncle Sam.


Material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only and is not intended to be used in connection with the evaluation of any investments offered by David Lerner Associates, Inc. This material does not constitute an offer or recommendation to buy or sell securities and should not be considered in connection with the purchase or sale of securities.

To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law.

Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.

These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable-- we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

David Lerner Associates does not provide tax or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual's personal circumstances. Member FINRA & SIPC

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Author: Sally Falkow

Categories: Retirement Planning Information


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Founded in 1976, David Lerner Associates is a privately-held broker/dealer with headquarters in Syosset, New York and branch offices in Westport, CT; Boca Raton, FL; Teaneck and Princeton, NJ; and White Plains, NY. For more information contact David Lerner Associates Call 516-921-4200 Visit our website: www.davidlerner.com

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Jake Mendlinger
Account Manager
516.829.8374 X 232

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