Revisit your estate plan

 
Legal provisions you established earlier in life may no longer apply-this is the time to review and revise your estate plan to ensure your wishes are carried out.

Update your will and trust documents

Everyone knows the importance of preparing and maintaining a will, yet many never write one or fail to update a will when circumstances change. Births, deaths, and divorce can dramatically alter your transfer plans, so it's important to ensure that your will and trusts reflect your intentions. Review these documents with your estate attorney, and consider any health issues that may warrant changes to your estate plan.
Read:
Births, deaths, and
divorce can dramatically
alter your wealth transfer
plans

Protect your assets from tax liability

Consider trusts to reduce taxes: Careful planning may be especially important to conserve your assets and minimize the effects of taxes. For that reason, many people use trusts in their estate plans.

Follow the rules: IRS rules for calculating the required minimum distribution (RMD) from IRAs and qualified retirement plans offer some longer-term planning advantages. Keep in mind that if you or your heirs do not withdraw minimum amounts when required, taxes can take half of what should have been withdrawn.

Stretch out the tax bill: A stretch IRA can help to make the tax payments on your assets easier for your heirs to handle by naming younger beneficiaries (such as grandchildren or great-grandchildren).1

Read:

Open tax-advantaged accounts for grandchildren, nieces and nephews

Although 529 savings plans were developed as a college planning tool, the wealth transfer potential of these plans can be substantial: Contributions of up to $14,000 per child per year, or $70,000 in one five-year period, are not subject to gift taxes.2
Choose from two types of 529 plans: prepaid tuition plans, which let you lock in future tuition at today's rates; and college savings plans, which let you choose from a range of investments and offer greater return potential. Plans are sponsored by state governments, but you're not limited to your home state's plan (although participating in your home state's plan may have state income tax consequences).
Learn:
Read:
Some 529 college
savings plans can
also have wealth
transfer potential
Charitable giving may
help you provide for
your heirs & contribute
to a nonprofit

Make philanthropy part of your estate plan

Charitable giving can create an opportunity to balance providing for your heirs with your interest in contributing to the future of a favorite organization or institution. One way to make an impact is through a donor-advised fund-a charitable giving vehicle established at a public charity that lets you make a charitable contribution, receive tax benefits, and then recommend grants from the fund over time.
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Footnote 1 The "Stretch" IRA is not a type of IRA, but rather a technique to extend the assets of an IRA beyond your lifetime, possibility multiple generations. The stretch IRA strategy is designed for individuals who will not need to use assets during retirement. It is helpful to consult your tax and other financial advisors to assist you in determining whether a stretch IRA strategy can help you to enhance your retirement and estate plans.

Footnote 2 To be eligible for the favorable tax treatment afforded to any earnings portion of withdrawals for Section 529 accounts, withdrawals must be for "qualified higher-education expenses," as defined in the Internal Revenue Code.

Neither Merrill Lynch nor any of its affiliates or financial advisors provide legal, tax, or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decisions.

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