Savvy owners of fast-growth companies realize that taking steps now to create an estate plan -- while their companies are young -- will be less fraught with complications, less expensive, and more advantageous to their beneficiaries. Without any type of plan, Uncle Sam could become your major beneficiary.

At the very least, you should have a will that clearly spells out what property goes to whom. But in the case of most business owners, a strategy that thoroughly informs your gradually passes on your assets will significantly reduce your heirs' tax burden in the long run.

Choose an Estate Plan

Cover Your Assets
Discover smart estate planning strategies for each stage of your -- and your business's -- life.
Questions and Answers About Estate Planning
Five hypothetical questions and answers about estate planning may help you sort out the alternatives that make the most sense for you and your company.
Frequently Asked Questions about Estate and Gift Taxes
Learn tax reduction strategies through the answers to these common questions.
Test Your Financial Fitness
How well you mind your money today will affect what you'll be able to offer your beneficiaries tomorrow.
Are You Trust Worthy?
There may be no group that stands to benefit from trusts more than entrepreneurs who own fast-growing, privately held companies, Jill Andresky Fraser argues in this Inc. classic.
How Living Trusts Work
Living trusts can be a confusing area for the uninitiated. Here's a rundown of the basics, so you can decide whether or not you need a living trust and if so, what kind.
A Charitable Tax Break
Setting up your own private charitable foundation lets you give to your favorite causes, reduce your current income tax in the process, and reduce your taxable estate.
What Kind of Estate Plan is Right for You?
Is your estate plan in good shape? Here's what to consider.
A Policy to Die For
Don't forget to make life insurance part of the estate planning mix.
An Estate-Plan Checkup
Use this annual checkup list to make sure your estate plan is up-to-date and effective.

Valuing Your Business

Working with a professional business appraiser can help you create an estate plan that will stand up to IRS scrutiny.

The Ultimate Valuation Guide
Estate planning is just one reason to consider the value of your business. Here we showcase a database and interactive chart for you to gauge what your business is worth today.
What's Your Company Worth Now?
How, and by whom, valuations are established.
Judgment Day
One company builder opens his books to the experts.
How Much Should a Business Appraisal Cost?
The price should be driven by the purpose of the appraisal, the appraisers professional standards, and the appraiser's overhead.

The Estate Tax

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Estate Tax
Keeping the death tax at bay.
Why America Needs the Estate Tax
Who's heading up the fight for the estate tax? None other than William Gates, Sr. -- Bill Gates' father. Here, Rhonda Abrams shares her thoughts and an interview with Gates on his fight to keep the estate tax.

The Way with Wills

If you do nothing else to plan for the future of your assets, you should at least write a will. Learn more about this important document through the answers to these commonly asked questions.

How do I ensure that my will is legally binding?
Have you thought about your will but haven't taken the time to put it in writing? The rules for making a will aren't nearly as complicated as you may imagine.
Who should be the executor of my will?
Answers to questions about executors, including how to choose one and what they do.
How will my children manage the estate?
When you make your will, you should arrange for someone to manage any property you leave to young children.
Do Your Family a Favor: Get Organized
After you've taken the important step of making your estate planning documents, you can help your family by addressing some practical issues.

Property in Probate

Learn about the probate process, which takes place after a person dies. Understand probate -- and then consider some strategies for avoiding it.

Probate FAQ
Get to know the basics of this legal process.
Ways to Avoid Probate
Avoiding probate may benefit your heirs in the long run.