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Tisser's Top Ten Factors Evidencing a Need for Estate Planning


  1. Do you need a Will or Living Trust? Yes, if you want to control how your assets will be distributed at your death.
  2. Do you have a Will or a Living Trust which is more than one year old? If yes, it should be reviewed.
  3. Do you have minor children? If yes, you may want to provide who will be their guardians, rather than letting a court decide this issue.
  4. Do you have children from a prior marriage? If yes, do you want to protect your assets for them, while allowing your surviving spouse to use your assets during his or her lifetime?
  5. Are you married for at least a second time? If yes, how do you want to divide assets between your spouse and your children from the prior marriage?
  6. Are either you or your spouse not a United States citizen? If yes, there will be a death tax on your death (which otherwise would have been deferred if your surviving spouse had been a citizen) unless you create a Qualified Domestic Trust.
  7. Does the total net value of all of your assets exceed the amount you can leave estate tax free (including life insurance and retirement plans) when you die? If yes, you should do planning to minimize or avoid the estate tax.
  8. Do you have life insurance policies? If yes, have they been reviewed recently? Have they been set up to minimize death taxes, e.g., in an irrevocable life insurance trust?
  9. Do you own a business or investment (such as real estate)? If yes, have you provided for its continuity after your death, so that your family can continue to benefit economically from it?
  10. Do you have one or more co-owners in your business or investment? If yes, do you have a properly funded buy-sell agreement that will protect your family, and the business or investment? Has it been reviewed within the past year?

If you have answered yes to any of the above, then you need estate planning.