What property is included in your estate?

Your "estate" includes all of the property you own, including property that you may not use during your lifetime, such as the proceeds from an insurance policy that insures your life, or retirement plan proceeds remaining at your death. Your gross estate is the sum of the "fair market value" of each of the assets in your estate (before deducting for debts, mortgages, obligations, etc.).

Your gross estate includes all of the following assets:

    Your tangible personal property (e.g., your tools, documents, papers, furniture, clothing, letters, photos, artwork, equipment, automobiles — generally anything that you can touch);

    Your intangible personal property (e.g., cash held in bank accounts and other financial institutions, financial investments, retirement plans, insurance policies (except term policies), interests in family businesses, interests in general andlimited partnerships, royalties, copyrights, patents stock options — in short, anything of value that cannot be physically touched or held in your hands);

    Your real property, or interests in real property that you own [i.e., your real property includes your right, title, and interest in your land, your home, and any rental real property (e.g., apartment building, commercial property, etc.) in which you hold an interest].

In general, "fair market value" of an asset may be thought of as its present value or the cost of purchasing that particular asset at the relevant time (i.e., the date of your death). As part of the estate planning process, you should create an inventory list of all of the property that you own (whether you hold title separately in your own name, or with another person or persons as joint tenants, or tenants in common, or in your trust, or as an interest in a partnership, etc.) and the approximate fair market value of the property. The value of your estate is important in determining whether, and to what extent, your estate will be taxed after your death and/or the resources or assets that you will have available to pay your medical and financial expenses in the event of your incapacity. The value of your estate is also important in determining what, if any, additional measures should be taken to minimize estate taxes upon your death.