Russ Cook & Associates, PC

Common Estate Planning Mistakes Made by Physicians

Most people would desire to pass their assets down to their loved ones or give them away to charity upon their passing; however, people can't even give their money away without facing the potential of being taxed by the government.

For example, the estate tax (also known as the death tax) has the potential to take over 50 percent of the value of someone's estate as a tax upon their death. This would leave significantly less for their heirs, possibly placing them in a bind in the future. These potential pitfalls may be avoided with careful estate planning. People who have the potential to pass along a large estate, including successful physicians, will almost certainly benefit from avoiding some of the common mistakes in estate planning. 

Physicians Need to Plan Ahead

The most common way that physicians get themselves into trouble with the estate tax is through poor planning. This is understandable because physicians work some of the longest hours of any industry. It is easy to get caught between work and family obligations leading to future planning being placed on the back-burner; however, physicians should remember that estate planning is there to plan for the unexpected.

Issues related to taxes, investment portfolios, and financial earnings need to be addressed early because many cases of poor estate planning result from unexpected events that could lead to someone's untimely death. Physicians should start working with an estate planner today to ensure that they don't fall victim to this common mistake.

Physicians Need to Update their Documentation

This problem must be addressed from two sides. Many physicians try to plan their estate by themselves but don't realize that the tax code can change from year to year. For example, many physicians don't realize that the threshold for the application of the estate tax has changed in the past few years. The new threshold at which the estate tax applies is every dollar over $5.45 million. Physicians planning with the old threshold would be planning inaccurately.

On the other side, physicians may be planning their estate using old documents that inaccurately reflect their current net worth. Cars, houses, investment fluctuations, and changes in pay can lead to documents that must be updated.

Physicians Need to Talk to their Spouse

This becomes paramount when a physician marries. With at least one spouse working so many hours, a couple may not be able to get together and talk about their assets routinely. This can lead to a rude awakening if extra estate taxes come due.

This is why it is important to trust an experienced estate planner. If all of the assets are disclosed, the plan can help to minimize the amount of money owed to the government. Please consider speaking with an experienced estate planning attorney for guidance. 

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