Estate planning

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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 - Understanding Your EIN (Employer Identification Number), from the 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

Introductory materials on estate planning

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