By Bryan Trugman, CFP

There’s a common misconception that if you aren’t wealthy or very old, it’s not important to worry about estate planning. But this simply isn’t true! Estate planning is for everyone, regardless of age or economic status, and plays a pivotal role in preserving a legacy that reflects your true desires. Involving much more than simply creating a will, it has value for people of all ages.

With the current state of ever-increasing inflation rates, it’s more important now than ever to have an estate plan in place. Surprisingly, two-thirds of Americans have yet to establish any form of estate planning document. To help you preserve your legacy, our team at Attitude Financial Advisors has compiled key considerations to keep in mind when crafting a comprehensive estate plan.

Basic Estate Planning

No matter how big or small your estate is, there are a few important documents everyone should have in place.


A will is the most familiar of the estate planning documents. It spells out your final wishes and names a person or entity to handle your financial affairs upon death. A will is especially important if you have minor children. If you don’t specifically name a guardian in your will, the choice will be made by the court with no consideration for your preferences.

Medical Directive

Also known as a living will, this document describes what type of life-saving intervention you would like and in what situations it should be used.

Healthcare Proxy

The last thing you want is to leave your family in the dark regarding important medical information and how you want to be treated in the event of a medical emergency. If there are no documents in place, conflict can arise over who should make the decisions and what course of action should be taken. This document identifies a specific person who is authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf. It can be used in conjunction with a medical directive, or it can be used on its own.

Power of Attorney (POA)

Covering everything else outside of medical rights, this document allows an authorized individual to make decisions on your behalf, including financial and business decisions. There are several types of POA; the choice of which one to use is highly personal. Make sure to involve whomever you choose to act as your designated agent—they should be well aware of the responsibility and willing to take on the role.


Though wills are the most well-known estate planning vehicle, trusts are the true lynchpin. This is because they save both time and money by removing assets from your estate and avoiding probate. It operates as a separate entity that holds all your assets while you’re alive, thereby removing them from your personal estate. The trust’s assets will then be distributed to your beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of your trust document, which means your estate will avoid the hassle and expense of probate.

“Many parents considering establishing a trust for their children generally wish to include terms requiring mandatory distributions at a certain age or multiple ages,” says William Bird, a partner at Murtha & Bird, P.C. “A common strategy is to have a trust that requires one-third of the trust’s principal to be distributed at age 25, one-third at age 30, and the balance at age 35. This may not always be the best choice because although it may address a parent’s concern about their children receiving a large sum of money before they are responsible enough to manage these monies, it does not necessarily provide as much protection against creditors as many parents would generally want. A parent should keep in mind that if their child can require or is entitled to a distribution to be made from a trust, the child’s creditor or divorcing spouse can seek to satisfy their claims from the distribution. Also, once your child receives the distribution, it is now vulnerable to present or future creditors’ claims.

Instead of having a trust with outright distributions at certain ages, a parent may want to consider using other types of trusts that enable a trustee to make distributions for a child’s benefit in accordance with the wishes of the parent, while also preventing a child’s creditor or divorcing spouse from seeking to satisfy a claim. Options include a fully discretionary trust, a discretionary trust, incentive trust, and a beneficiary-controlled trust. Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages, and as such, the best strategy—or combination of strategies—for a parent depends upon the family’s unique circumstances and goals.”

Advanced Estate Planning

In addition to the basic estate planning described above, individuals who have estates valued at $10,000,000 or more may want to consider more advanced planning techniques. Currently, an individual can leave an estate up to $12.92 million without being charged estate tax. The New York estate tax threshold is $6.58 million per individual in 2023 (up from $6.11 million in 2022). Of course, there is an unlimited exemption for amounts left to a spouse. If you are nearing this limit, proactive estate planning can help you reduce or eliminate your tax liability and take advantage of the portability option available for a surviving spouse, where applicable.


Advanced estate planning can include:

Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust (IDGT)

An IDGT is considered a grantor trust, which means that the individual who sets up the trust is also responsible for the income tax on the trust income. The income on trust assets remains in the trust for the benefit of the trust beneficiaries. Once assets are transferred to the IDGT by gift or sale, those assets are removed from the grantor’s estate, as is the growth on those assets, and will not be considered for estate tax purposes in the future.

An IDGT is called “intentionally defective” because the trust is created with an intentional flaw that ensures the grantor is still responsible for the income tax on the asset growth even though the assets are no longer in the grantor’s estate. Because of this “flaw,” the assets in the trust can grow without the burden of taxes, and the trust beneficiaries won’t have to pay estate taxes on those assets. In a sense, an IDGT acts to “freeze” the current value of the asset at the time it’s put into the trust.

A great application for using an IDGT is to sell an asset expected to grow at a very healthy rate over time. This will, in effect, allow the growth to occur outside the seller’s taxable estate and “freeze” the value for purposes of calculating estate taxes.

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT)

An ILIT is a separate entity designed to own a life insurance policy and receive the death benefits. A trustee is given control over the policy and will be responsible for carrying out the terms of the ILIT for the benefit of named beneficiaries (typically the insured’s spouse, children, or other family members).

An ILIT is useful because it allows the policy’s death benefits to be excluded from the insured’s taxable estate. The insured may gift (or loan) money to the trustee, who will then use those funds to pay the premiums. When properly designed and administered, a gift to the ILIT may escape the federal gift tax as well.

Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT)

A SLAT is an irrevocable trust established by one spouse (the grantor spouse) for the benefit of the other spouse (the beneficiary spouse) and perhaps children. The trust is usually funded with a life insurance policy on the life of the grantor spouse.

While both spouses are alive, the SLAT may make distributions to the beneficiary spouse and their children for their health, education, maintenance, and support or another ascertainable standard. The trustee may use withdrawals and/or loans from the life insurance policy or other trust assets to make the distributions that would be free of any taxes to the trust or beneficiaries.

Upon the death of the grantor spouse, life insurance death proceeds will be paid to the trust. The trust may continue to provide income to the beneficiaries or may terminate and distribute the remaining income and principal to the beneficiaries.

SLATs will remove the trust assets from the grantor’s taxable estate, but the grantor retains indirect access to trust income through the beneficiary spouse.

Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT)

A GRAT provides the grantor a right to trust income. However, the income is only payable to the grantor for a specific period of time. The grantor will receive fixed annuity payments from the trust. The payments are determined by the current IRC Section 7520 rate, a figure set by the IRS. Any growth that’s higher than the Section 7520 rate is transferred to your beneficiary outside of your estate, thereby avoiding estate taxes. As long as you outlive the term of the trust, the assets will be removed from your taxable estate and your beneficiaries will receive the remaining assets free of tax.

Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT)

A CRT is another type of trust in which you as the grantor retain an income interest in the property placed into the trust. In this case, you can receive income for a certain period of time or until you pass away. Once the income term expires, the remaining property in the trust is passed to the charity of your choice.

Because the beneficiary of the trust is a charity and the trust is irrevocable, you will receive an immediate charitable deduction to assist with your income taxes. For this reason, it’s best to transfer highly appreciated assets to the CRT in order to maximize your deduction.

Buy-Sell Agreement

If you own a business, a buy-sell agreement is an important estate planning strategy to consider. It is a legal contract between two or more parties that specifies what happens to a partner’s share of a business if they should die, become incapacitated, retire, or otherwise leave the firm. It is a very important document for those with active business interests, and it is often used as a way to prevent the business from being liquidated or sold to unwanted individuals.

A well-drafted and fully funded buy-sell agreement will allow for business continuity, ensuring that your departure doesn’t cause unnecessary disruptions or financial difficulty. It will also provide for your family financially in the event you pass away or can no longer work.

Whatever your case may be, it’s important to make sure the agreement is properly funded so that the remaining parties will have the cash flow available to purchase your stake. If not, the business may pass to heirs who are unwilling or unable to operate it, leaving your business legacy at risk.

Take the Next Step

Are you prepared to organize your affairs and leave a lasting legacy? We encourage you to collaborate with a financial planner and qualified tax and legal professionals who takes into account your specific needs and encourages you to make informed choices that align with your values.

Estate planning plays a vital role in your overall portfolio, and if you partner with us, we at Attitude Financial Advisors are committed to assisting you throughout the entire process. Our team of experienced professionals can offer guidance and address your questions regarding your estate.

Reach out to me via email at or give me a call at (516) 762-7603 to set up a free consultation.


About Bryan

Bryan Trugman is managing partner, co-founder, and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner at Attitude Financial Advisors. With more than 14 years of experience, Bryan specializes in addressing the financial needs of new parents as they seek to realign their finances, assisting divorced individuals as they navigate an unforeseen fork in the road, and strategizing with those seeking to accrue a dependable retirement nest egg. Bryan is known for being a good listener and building strong relationships with his clients so he can help them develop a customized financial plan based on what’s important to them. He is passionate about helping his clients experience financial confidence so they can worry less and play more. Bryan has a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering with a minor in mathematics from State University of New York at Binghamton. He has served on the board of the Financial Planning Association and continues to be actively involved in the national organization. He is also a member of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Chamber of Commerce and has served as its vice president and as a board member. When he’s not working, you can find Bryan on the ballroom dance floor or engaged in a fast-paced game of doubles on the tennis court. To learn more about Bryan, connect with him on LinkedIn. Or, watch his latest webinar on: How Much Is Enough? A Surprisingly Simple Way to Calculate Your Retirement Savings Needs.


About William

William has been with Murtha & Bird, P.C. since 1994 when he started as a student intern. His practice primarily focuses on trust and estate law, concentrating in trust and estate litigation and estate and trust administration. He represents clients in New York State Surrogate’s Court in probate contests, contested accounting proceedings, discovery proceedings, and other miscellaneous proceedings, and in actions and proceedings in Supreme Court relating to trusts and estates. His practice also includes the preparation of wills and trusts and other estate planning and elder care planning documents. William is also an adjunct professor at Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, where he supervises the Not For Profit and Small Business Clinic. To learn more about William, connect with him on LinkedIn.

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