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Pop the popcorn, uncork the champagne, and put on your best red-carpet duds to tune into the 90th Academy Awards tonight! In between award envelopes (hopefully there won’t be another embarrassing best picture flub like last year), consider how your 2018 Oscar ballot has some surprising connections with estate planning. It may sound like a stretch, but hear me out while you watch the pre-show coverage.

Anything Could Happen

If you’re a film buff who has managed to watch all nine of the Best Picture category nominees (first off, I’m jealous), you may have a strong opinion about which one deserves to win. However, just like life, anything could happen! You may think The Shape of Water most certainly will be victorious, but in the end, Darkest Hour ends up taking home the gold with the bravado of a Churchill speech. You know one of the films will win, just like you know someday you’re going to pass away. However, you cannot know which one of the films will win ahead of time, just like you cannot know how and when your final scene will be.

Jimmy Kimmel Oscars

Expecting the unexpected is what estate planning boils down to. With something fun and entertaining like the Academy Awards, surprises can make for ready Oscar party fodder. But, when it comes to your estate—all of your assets you worked hard to acquire—surprises can make for frustration infighting for your family, extended probate time and fees, and assets being distributed in a way that you wouldn’t have chosen.

Estate planning allows you to make certain your loved ones and the charities you care most about “win,” regardless of when you pass away.

It’s All in the Family

Many of the films nominated this year have familial relationships as a central plot device in the scripts. Without a doubt Dunkirk’s British civilian family who answered the call to assist with the rescue efforts in northern France during WWII undergoes a heartbreaking tragedy of their own. And, no one can deny the wrenching emotions of the mother Mildred in the aftermath of her daughter’s murder in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The movies Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird specifically both feature teenage protagonists, which brings up a clear benefit and point of necessity for estate planning.

Call Me By Your Name

Teens are still considered minor children until they would turn 18, their parents should have guardianship defined through their estate plans. That way, if something were to happen to the minor’s legal guardian(s), they could be immediately placed under the care of another trusted adult. Unless guardianship has been established, an Iowa Court must choose guardians for the minor child if the legal guardian died or was incapacitated. Unfortunately, with no clear choice as to what the former caregivers would have preferred, the Court must basically make its own and best determination as to who the parents would have preferred and what would be in the best interest of the children. The Court may or may not, choose who the former caregivers would have named.

Leave a Lasting Legacy

Some of the greatest films of all time have won the “Best Picture” category and left a cinematic legacy that has lasted well beyond their premiere date. These movies and the stories they tell live on in infamy, as generation after generation experiences their contribution to the entertainment industry.

Perhaps one or more of the 2018 Best Picture nominees will join this upper echelon of cinema (and maybe not), but estate planning also allows you to also make a mark on your world—a chance to leave a lasting legacy. A legacy can be interpreted differently be different people. A legacy to you could mean leaving a sizable charitable bequest to your church or alma mater. It could also mean bequeathing your art collection to your favorite museum. It could mean establishing college funds for all of your children and grandchildren to represent your belief in continuous learning. Whatever you envision your legacy to be, an estate plan will allow you shape it…think of it like your own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

hollywood walk of fame star

Let me know your pick for Best Picture in the comments below and if you want to discuss your estate plan don’t hesitate to contact me via email or by phone (515-371-6077). You can also get started on the creation of an estate plan by filling out my free, no-obligation Estate Plan Questionnaire.

Blue journal on desk

Estate planning can be a huge relief for you and your loved ones. A quality estate plan means a sense of security that your family and other important people in your life will be provided for at the time of your death.

You’ve worked hard for what you have, but the saying is all too true: you cannot take it with you when you die. So, you may as well pass along your assets through an airtight estate plan to people you care about, as opposed to the government.

To that point, there are important, not-so-obvious benefits of an estate plan, such as avoidance of specific taxes and fees.

 

Person holding phone at table

Here are several ways to get the best benefits out of your estate planning:

Federal estate tax 

The federal estate tax applies to high net worth individuals; for 2018 the estate tax exemption is $11.2 million/individual (up from $5.49 million in 2017 due to the new tax law). What does that mean exactly? It means that any one individual could leave up to that amount to heirs and pay no federal estate tax. For married couples, the limit is $22.4 million. These are important rates to know because estate taxes can be as high as 40 percent. (Which is pretty harsh!) The good news is that smart estate planning strategies exist to legally avoid the federal estate tax.

Customized estate planning

Without a customized estate plan, you and your estate may end up paying more in the long run in professional fees, court costs, and taxes. A customized estate plan is essentially a thorough plan that takes these potential future charges into consideration. It includes elements such as a managed distributions, which can help alleviate much of the tax burden on your beneficiaries.

A customized, smart, up-to-date estate plan can mean your estate avoids court costs almost entirely. Optimally you want to avoid the worst case scenario (aka litigation) with certain estate planning provisions.

 

Professional fees can include costs for services provided by accountants and lawyers. Using a flat rate with an attorney will be much more straightforward and to your long-term economic advantage. Why? Paying someone on the front end means less work and hassle down the road when your family is coping with your passing.

Allocating charitable contributions 

This is my favorite strategy for avoiding a large brunt of taxes and fees. Mutually beneficial for both nonprofit organizations and estate beneficiaries, charitable contributions are a way to secure a lasting legacy, make a tangible community difference on the way out, and secure helpful tax deductions.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to estate planning, and a legal professional can help you identify financial advantages and benefits. (Yet another reason why you need a reputable attorney to craft your estate plan.)

Have questions? Need more information?

Click here to download my free, no-obligation Estate Plan Questionnaire or feel free to reach out any time. You can contact me by email at Gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com or give me a call at 515-371-6077.