Estate planning

From Bogleheads

Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging for the disposal of an estate during a person's life. Estate planning typically attempts to eliminate uncertainties over the administration of a probate and maximize the value of the estate by reducing taxes and other expenses. Guardians are often designated for minor children and beneficiaries in incapacity.[1]

It overlaps to some degree with elder law, which additionally includes other provisions such as long-term care.

What is an estate?

An estate is a legal entity created as the result of a person’s death. The decedent’s estate is a separate legal entity for federal tax purposes.[2]

An estate consists of real and/or personal property of the deceased person. The estate pays any debts owed by the decedent and then distributes the balance of the estate’s assets to the beneficiaries of the estate.

The estate exists until the final distribution of the assets is made to the heirs and other beneficiaries.


  1. Estate planning, from Wikipedia
  2. "Publication 1635 - Employer Identification Number: Understanding Your EIN" (PDF). IRS.

Further reading

  • Bogleheads forum topic: "Death Book" - A comprehensive list of essential information to help survivors manage the estate settlement process.
  • Bogleheads forum topic: " "Letter of Final Instructions" " - Guidance for loved ones upon a person's death. The letter provides locations of important documents and brief instructions.
  • Bogleheads forum topic: "Process for surviving spouse." - Additional helpful information for survivors to manage the estate settlement process. A number of practical suggestions; such as dealing with banks, insurance companies, and utilities are discussed.

External links

  • Bogleheads forum topic: "Making funeral arrangements? Consider "pre-need" insurance", LadyGeek. January 23, 2020. The estate planning process may include funeral arrangements. Insurance can hedge against unanticipated price increases.
  • Bogleheads forum topic: "Insufficient assets in an estate - What to do?", metalworking. February 1, 2020. TOD (Transfer On Death) and POD (Payable On death) accounts are excluded from probate, but remain part of the estate. In some situations, the beneficiary may be required to return funds in order to pay an estate's expenses.

Introductory materials on estate planning

The Internal Revenue Service has a great deal to say about the transfer of assets: