According to industry experts, low interest rates, a weak economy and the current political climate make now an ideal time for Florida homeowners to begin taking steps to protect their property and assets. Although many options are available, estate planning professionals recommend that people start with basic strategies before moving on to more advanced estate administration concepts.

One financial adviser explained that while gifts can be an effective way of avoiding hefty estate taxes, such donations must be over $13,000 to qualify for exemption. Those who do not feel comfortable making such large gifts, however, can set up trusts to distribute money. Such a move allows the donor to maintain more control while taking advantage of the current beneficial tax rules.

For instance, grantor-retained annuity trusts are especially useful given the low interest rates currently affecting most of the country. This is because a trust's assets are more likely to appreciate at a faster rate under low interest rates. Since any appreciation above 1.4 percent may be given to beneficiaries without incurring estate or gift taxes, grantor-retained annuity trusts are an effective way to save on estate taxes. If the assets in a trust do not appreciate as expected, they may simply be re-added to the initial estate.

While saving on taxes is not the ultimate goal of estate planning, it does allow estate-holders to more easily control the fate of their assets, meaning that wealthy individuals should try to take advantage of favorable tax laws before their likely ensuing modification. Estate-holders should remember that any assets that are not donated or placed into a trust now will be subject to estate taxes following their death.

Source: Investment News, "A 'perfect storm' for estate planning," Andrew Osterland, Nov. 6, 2011