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Estate Planning

How a family transfers its wealth can be one of the determining factors in its legacy to children, grandchildren and future generations, as well as to society. While the estate planning process can be quite technical in nature with an emphasis on the transfer of assets, at its core it is fundamentally about the transfer of the values and priorities of those who created the wealth.

Generally, individuals and families who are planning for the transfer of their wealth will want to focus on two broad areas:

Estate Tax 

Mark Twain, responding to news reports that he was deceased or on his deathbed, is often quoted as having said, "The report of my death has been greatly exaggerated."

In the same fashion, the debate over estate tax reform earlier this year spawned a number of ill-informed reports. Indeed, news of the death of the estate tax was also greatly exaggerated.

Ultimately, the law that was passed and signed by President Bush does provide some relief from estate taxes, but it also creates what is likely to be a prolonged period of planning uncertainty for affluent and high-net-worth individuals. Allow a professional advisor to brief you on the facts of the law and provide you with some advice on what to do in light of its passage.


Key provisions of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, signed by the president on June 7, 2001:

In 2011, the estate tax rate returns to 55 percent, and the exemption drops back down to $1 million. The law's sunset date of Dec. 31, 2010 can only be reversed by an act of the President and Congress. What becomes of the estate tax after 2011 will be decided by future administrations and Congress.

The new law also affects the Estate and Generation Skipping Transfer (GST), estate surcharges and the Family Owned Business Exclusion. For more detailed information these provisions and their effects in your estate plans, please consult your FEC Consultant and your professional advisors.

What To Do

Any time tax laws change it makes sense to revisit your wealth management plans and, especially in this case, your estate plans. You'll want to be sure to take advantage of the tax savings provided by the new law and avoid any pitfalls it may present. You may want to:

Wealth Transfer Techniques

If you don't have an estate plan in place, Uncle Sam has one waiting for you -- and chances are it's not the plan you would choose. Assets that pass to heirs are currently subject to estate or gift taxes that can be as high as 55% on estates over $3 million. Even with the much-touted estate tax repeal, assets that pass on to heirs will continue to be subject to an estate or gift tax through 2009. But these reductions are temporary since the law sunsets after December 31, 2010 and the old rules return. Only decedents dying in the year 2010 will benefit from full federal estate tax and generation-skipping transfer tax repeal. And that repeal is subject to suspension between now and then. It is impossible to know what the political and economic/budgetary climate will be and how that can impact you and your heirs.

With this uncertainty, careful estate planning continues to be even more essential to help individuals with significant assets ensure that your plans reflect your values and the legacy you want to leave, as well as ensuring that you transfer the maximum amount to your heirs and the philanthropic causes that you care about most.

By working with a team of professional advisors, such as an accountant, appraiser, attorney, family wealth counselor and/or financial specialist, individuals with substantial wealth can create a wealth management and estate plan that is tailored to their specific values and family situations. Working with professional advisors can help individuals or families develop a gifting plan that transfers their wealth in a way that is tailored to their personal situation and feelings about their heirs and the needs of their wider community.


This information should not be used as a basis for legal and/or tax advice. In any specific case, the parties involved should seek the guidance and advice of their own legal and tax counsel.

Dynasty Trust

The Dynasty Trust helps individuals and families leverage tax exclusions and credits to maximize the assets that are transferred to future generations. Because the federal estate and gift tax applies to each generational transfer of wealth, these taxes can significantly erode the amount that is passed on. The Dynasty Trust attempts to limit the occasions when the estate tax is imposed on assets as they pass on to heirs by holding assets in trust for as long as the law allows. This reduces the number of taxable transfers while providing financial support to a range of family beneficiaries over two or more generations.

Qualified Personal Residence Trust

Individuals or couples can use a Qualified Personal Residence Trust to move a home out of their estate and give ownership of the property to their heirs with reduced gift tax consequences. They will continue to retain the right to use the home for a period of years. Because the heirs do not take title to the property for a number of years, the present value basis of the gift is smaller than when the property was placed in the trust. The benefit is that the children or heirs own the property, the parents can retain the right to live in the house and an appreciating asset is out of the estate.

Bypass Trust

Married couples are entitled to leave unlimited amounts of assets to the surviving spouse without incurring federal estate taxes. However, when the other partner dies, federal estate taxes are due on the surviving spouse's entire estate. The Bypass Trust enables each spouse to take advantage of the unified credit equal to $675,000 each ($1.35 million per couple) in 2000 and 2001, so that when the first spouse dies, an amount equal to the estate exemption of $675,000 is placed in a Bypass Trust. The assets in the trust are not taxed at this time, but are passed on to heirs estate tax-free. The surviving spouse does have access to the income from the trust for life and can use the principal, if necessary, for his or her health, education, support or maintenance, as well as the needs of the children. In year 2002 and future years the unified credit increases until 2009. In 2010 increases may be repealed.



Charitable Giving: Wealth Replacement Trust and Charitable Remainder Trust

Philanthropic Planning

Philanthropy, or the commitment of private resources to the public good, is a great American tradition. Each day, philanthropy is involved in the work of improving our communities and our lives.

Once wealthy families become comfortable with their wealth, they begin focusing more on the future of their wealth, as well as subsequent generations. Things that become clearer at this stage may include the desire to share wealth and "give back" in gratitude of their good fortune. They may want to create a family legacy focusing in a higher purpose for relieving some of the world's problems. Perhaps, the main concern will revolve solely around the intergenerational transfer of their wealth intended to pass down family values and philosophies. Regardless of the primary purpose, philanthropy provides the backdrop.

Donors and families seek to meet a wide variety of financial and non-financial goals through their philanthropy. Some of these include:

"Of the 25% of high net worth entities currently divesting holdings, 30% are doing so to charities."  Phoenix

Ultimately, prudent wealth management planning isn't focused narrowly on avoiding the estate tax and other taxes. It lies, instead, in developing strategies that will help you transfer your wealth in a positive way to succeeding generations in a manner that reflects your goals and your values.

Your charitable giving can benefit good causes Ė if you plan carefully, your gifts can also help your tax situation and estate planning.

Which type of asset gift? Assets (ie. real estate, property), Stock, Cash?

No matter how you make your charitable contributions, you will help the recipient. But the benefits you will receive will depend a great deal on the nature of your gift.

Suppose, for example, that one desires to give cash to an organization that you like. One could receive an immediate income tax deduction for one's gift, and will be removing assets from one's taxable estate.

That is a good combination. But, what if one would rather give asset-stocks? Which asset-stock should one choose?

In considering which asset-stocks one may desire to donate, pay special attention to these factors:

By donating an asset-stock, one is removing assets of one's taxable estate. Although the amount of money one can leave tax-free to one's heirs - the so-called "unified credit" Ė is increasing substantially over the next several years, it may still be to one's benefit to remove assets from one's estate.

Considerations of a "Charitable Remainder Trust"

It's easy to transfer one's asset-stock to a charity. But instead of making an outright gift, one may want to consider placing stock in a "charitable remainder trust". The trust donates the asset-stock.

If one organizes efficiently, this type of trust can help one several ways. One will receive an immediate income tax deduction for a portion of one's gift and avoid capital gains taxes, as one would by donating your asset-stocks outright. A charitable remainder trust can sell one's appreciated asset-stock, purchase an income-producing vehicle with the proceeds and then pay an income stream for life. Upon death, the trust will pay the remaining funds to the charity or charities one has chosen.

What about one's family and loved ones? If one develops a charitable remainder trust, will one be depriving one's family of assets when one passes? Yes. This does not necessarily mean loved ones end with out a financial advantage. By transferring assets to a charitable remainder trust, one could reduce the heir estate taxes. One could utilize part or all of the income one receives from the trust to pay premiums of a life insurance policy on one's self, with one's heirs as beneficiaries. To keep this policy out of one's estate, one may want to place the policy in an irrevocable life insurance trust.

Charitable gifts - a win-win situation:  One's gifts are helpful to local and other charities. Be generous as possible. One and one's charity can benefit.

The Wealth Replacement Trust is generally used with the Charitable Remainder Trust. For example, a couple decides to gift a charity with $2 million of asset-stock which, while not paying high dividends, if sold would create a large capital gains tax liability. The asset-stock is, therefore, transferred to the trust, sold, and the assets reinvested in a portfolio of investments strategically allocated and tailored to the couple's long-term goals. The couple receives an income stream from the assets in the trust and a tax deduction for a portion of the $2 million gift. This approach may give them even more money than if they sold the asset-stock, paid the income taxes and reinvested the proceeds. Upon the couple's death, the principal in the trust goes to the charity.

Because the couple reduced their estate by $2 million, they are also interested in replacing that amount for their heirs. They establish a Wealth Replacement Trust (irrevocable life insurance trust) that is funded with a $2 million life insurance policy. They use the money from the increased income stream from the Charitable Remainder Trust to pay for the life insurance. Since the insurance is outside of their estate, the proceeds from the policy pass estate tax-free to their heirs.

Charitable Lead Trust

A Charitable Lead Trust is considered the reverse of a Charitable Remainder Trust because the charity receives the income stream for a period of years and the heirs receive the principal. With a lifetime Charitable Lead Trust, an individual or couple donates $2 million to a trust. The charity receives annual payments from the trust in an amount set forth in the trust agreement. At death or at the end of a predetermined time frame, the heirs receive the remaining principal from the trust. This type of trust may appeal to individuals with unusually high incomes for a given year or period of time, because a current income tax deduction may be available for the value of the charity's income interest, depending on the type of trust created.

Trusts can be complex. Seek the guidance and advice of qualified legal and tax counsel.



Questions, Answers and Explanations we should know.

Understanding Estate Taxes

Understanding Living Trusts

 Understanding Funding Your Living Trust

Understanding the Duties and Responsibilities of a Successor Trustee

 Understanding Charitable Remainder Trusts

Understanding Corporate Trustees

Understanding Life Insurance Trusts

Life Insurance Trust Summary

Who Should Be Beneficiary of Your IRA?

If You Die Without a Will

Disclaimers-Estate Planning Tool

Glossary of Terms for Estate Planning
A Trust The surviving spouseís portion of an A-B trust. Also called marital trust or survivorís trust.
A-B Trust A living trust with a provision that lets you provide for your surviving spouse, keep control over who will receive your assets after your spouse dies, and leave up to $2 million (in 2002 and 2003) to your beneficiaries, estate-tax free. (Under current tax law, this amount will increase over the next several years as the federal estate tax exemption increases.)
Administration The court-supervised distribution of an estate during probate. Also used to describe the same process for a trust after the grantor dies.
Administrator Person named by the court to represent a probate estate when there is no will or the will did not name an executor. Female is administratrix. Also called personal representative.
Alternate Beneficiary Person or organization named to receive your assets if the primary beneficiaries named in your Trust die before you do.
Ancillary Administration An additional probate in another state. Typically required when you own real estate in another state that is not titled in the name of your trust.
Annual Exclusion Amount you can give someone each year without having to file a gift tax return or pay a gift tax. Currently $11,000 per recipient ($22,000 if married). The amount of tax-free gifts is tied to inflation and may increase from year to year.
Assets Basically, anything you own, including your home and other real estate, bank accounts, life insurance, investments, furniture, jewelry, art, clothing, and collectibles.
Assignment A short document that transfers your interest in assets from your name to another. Often used when transferring assets to a trust.
B Trust The deceased spouseís portion of an A-B trust. Also called credit shelter or bypass trust.
Basis What you paid for an asset. The value that is used to determine gain or loss for income tax purposes.
Beneficiaries In a living trust, the persons and/or organizations who receive the trust assets (or benefit from the trust assets) after the death of the trust grantor.
By-Pass Trust Another name for the "B" part of an A-B living trust because the assets in this trust bypass federal estate taxes.
C Trust See "QTIP."
Certificate of Trust A shortened version of a trust that verifies the trustís existence, explains the powers given to the trustee, and identifies the successor trustee(s). Does not reveal any information about the trust assets, beneficiaries, or their inheritances.
Childrenís Trust A trust included in your living trust. If, when you die, a beneficiary is not of legal age, the childís inheritance will go into this trust. The inheritance will be managed by the trustee you have named until the child reaches the age at which you want him/her to inherit.
Codicil A written change or amendment to a Will.
Co-Grantors Two or more persons who establish one living trust together.
Co-Trustees Two or more individuals who have been named to act together in managing a trustís assets. A corporate trustee can also be a co-trustee.
Common Trust One living trust established by two or more individuals (usually a married couple).
Community Property Assets a husband and wife acquire by joint effort during marriage if they live in one of the eight community property states. (Wisconsin also has a similar law, but does not use the term "community property.") Each spouse owns half of the assets in the event of divorce or death.
Conservator One who is legally responsible for the care and well-being of another person. If appointed by a court, the conservator is under the courtís supervision. May also be called a guardian. (Duties and titles can vary by state. For example, in Missouri, there is a guardian of the person and a conservator of the estate.)
Conservatorship A court-controlled program for persons who are unable to manage their own affairs due to mental or physical incapacity. May also be called a guardianship.
Contest To dispute or challenge the terms of a will or trust.
Corporate Trustee An institution, like a bank or trust company, that specializes in managing trusts.
Credit Shelter Trust Another name for the B Trust in an A-B living trust because this trust "shelters" or preserves the federal estate tax "credit" of the deceased spouse.
Creditor Person or institution to whom money is owed.
Custodian Person named to manage assets left to a minor under the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act. In most states, the minor receives the assets at legal age.
Deceased One who has died.
Deed A document that lets you transfer title of your real estate to another person(s). Also see warranty deed and quitclaim deed.
Disclaim To refuse to accept a gift or inheritance so it can go to the recipient who is next in line.
Discretion The full or partial power to make a decision or judgment.
Disinherit To prevent someone from inheriting from you.
Distribution Payment in cash or asset(s) to one who is entitled to receive it.
Durable Power of Attorney for Asset Management A legal document that gives another person full or limited legal authority to sign your name on your behalf in your absence. Valid through incapacity. Ends at death.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care A legal document that lets you give someone else the authority to make health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them for yourself. Also called a health care proxy or medical power of attorney.
Equity The current market value of an asset less any loan or liability.
Estate Assets and debts left by an individual at death.
Estate Taxes Federal or state taxes on the value of assets left at death. Also called inheritance taxes or death taxes.
Executor Person or institution named in a will to carry out its instructions. Female is executrix. Also called a personal representative.
Family Business Deduction An additional federal estate tax exemption for family-owned businesses and farms that qualify. When added to the individual federal estate tax exemption, the maximum amount exempt from federal estate taxes is $1.3 million. Under current law, this deduction will be eliminated in 2004 when the federal estate tax exemption is increased to $1.5 million.
Federal Estate Tax Exemption Amount of an individualís estate that is exempt from federal estate taxes. In 2002 and 2003, the exemption amount is $1 million. Under current law, it is scheduled to increase to $3.5 million by the year 2009, disappear in the year 2010 (when the federal estate tax is scheduled to be repealed) and return in 2011 at $1 million.
Fiduciary Person having the legal duty to act primarily for anotherís benefit. Implies great confidence and trust, and a high degree of good faith. Usually associated with a trustee.
Funding The process of transferring assets to your living trust.
Gain The difference between what you receive for an asset when it is sold and what you paid for it. Used to determine the amount of capital gains tax due.
Generation Skipping Transfer Tax (GSTT) A steep tax (50% in 2002) on assets that "skip" a generation and are left directly to grandchildren and younger generations. Everyone has an exemption from this tax. In 2002, the GSTT exemption is $1,100,000.
Gift A transfer from one individual to another without fair compensation.
Gift Tax A federal tax on gifts made while you are living. In 2002, $11,000 per person per year is exempt from gift tax. Also see "Annual Exclusion."
Grantor The person who sets up or creates the trust. The person whose trust it is. Also called creator, settlor, trustor, donor or trustmaker.
Gross Estate The value of an estate before debts are paid.
Guardianship See "Conservatorship."
Health Care Proxy See "Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care."
Heir One who is entitled by law to receive part of your estate.
Holographic Will A handwritten will.
Homestead Exemption Portion of your residence (dwelling and surrounding land) that cannot be sold to satisfy a creditorís claim while you are living.
Incapacitated/ Incompetent Unable to manage oneís own affairs, either temporarily or permanently. Lack of legal power.
Independent Administration A form of probate available in many states. Intended to simplify the probate process by requiring fewer court appearances and less court supervision.
Inheritance The assets received from someone who has died.
Inter vivos Latin term that means "between the living." An inter vivos trust is created while you are living instead of after you die. A revocable living trust is an inter vivos trust.
Irrevocable Trust A trust that cannot be changed (revoked) or cancelled once it is set up. Opposite of revocable trust.
Intestate Without a will.
Joint Ownership When two or more persons own the same asset.
Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship A form of joint ownership in which the deceased ownerís share automatically and immediately transfers to the surviving joint tenant(s).
Liquid Assets Cash and other assets (like stocks) that can easily be converted into cash.
"Living Probate" The court-supervised process of managing the assets of one who is incapacitated.
Living Trust A written legal document that creates an entity to which you transfer ownership of your assets. Contains your instructions for managing your assets during your lifetime and for their distribution upon your incapacity or death. Avoids probate at death and court control of assets at incapacity. Also called a revocable inter vivos trust. A trust created during oneís lifetime.
Living Will A written document that states you do not wish to be kept alive by artificial means when the illness or injury is terminal.


Marital Deduction

A deduction on the federal estate tax return that lets the first spouse to die leave an unlimited amount of assets to the surviving spouse free of estate taxes. However, if no other tax planning is used, and the surviving spouseís estate is more than the amount of the federal estate tax exemption in effect at the time of his/her death, estate taxes will be due at that time.
Marital Trust See "A Trust."
Medicaid A federally-funded health care program for the poor and minor children.
Medicare A federally-funded health care program, primarily for Americans over age 65 who are covered by Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits.
Minor One who is under the legal age for an adult, which varies by state (usually age 18 or 21).
Net Estate The value of an estate after all debts have been paid. (Federal estate taxes are based on the net value of an estate.)
Net Value The current market value of an asset less any loan or debt.
Payable-on-Death Account See "Totten Trust."
Per Capita A way of distributing your estate so that your surviving descendents will share equally, regardless of their generation.
Per Stirpes A way of distributing your estate so that your surviving descendents will receive only what their immediate ancestor would have received if he/she had been living at your death.
Personal Property Movable property. Includes furniture, automobiles, equipment, cash and stocks. Opposite of real property that is permanent (like land).
Personal Representative Another name for an executor or administrator.
Pour Over Will A short will often used with a living trust. It states that any assets left out of your living trust will become part of (pour over into) your living trust upon your death.
Power of Attorney A legal document giving someone legal authority to sign your name on your behalf in your absence. Ends at incapacity (unless it is a durable power of attorney) or death.
Probate The legal process of validating a will, paying debts, and distributing assets after death.
Probate Estate The assets that go through probate after you die. Usually this includes assets you own in your name and those paid to your estate. Usually does not include assets owned jointly, payable-on-death accounts, insurance and other assets with beneficiary designations. Assets in a trust also do not go through probate.

Probate Fees

Legal, executor, and appraisal fees and court costs when an estate goes through probate. Probate fees are paid from assets in the estate before the assets are fully distributed to the heirs.
Qualified Domestic Trust (QDOT) Allows a non-citizen spouse to qualify for the marital deduction.
Qualified Terminable Interest Property (QTIP) A trust that delays estate taxes until your surviving spouse dies so more income will be available to provide for your spouse during his/her lifetime. You can also keep control over who will receive these assets after your spouse dies.
Qualifying Subchapter S Trust (QSST) Trust that meets certain IRS qualifications and is allowed to own Subchapter S stock.
Quitclaim Deed Document that allows you to transfer title to real estate. With a quitclaim deed, the person transferring the title makes no guarantees, but transfers all his/her interest in the property.
Real Property Land and property that is permanently attached to land (like a building or a house).
Recorded Deed A deed that has been filed with the county land records. This creates a public record of all changes in ownership of property in the state.
Revocable Trust A trust in which the person setting it up retains the power to change (revoke) or cancel the trust during his/her lifetime. Opposite of irrevocable trust.
Required Beginning Date (RBD) The date you must begin taking required minimum distributions from your tax-deferred plans. Usually, it is April 1 of the calendar year following the calendar year in which you turn age 70 1/2. If your money is in a company-sponsored plan, you may be able to delay your RBD beyond this date if you continue working (providing you are not a 5% or greater owner of the company).
Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) The amount you are required to withdraw each year from your tax-deferred plan after you reach your Required Beginning Date. This amount is determined by dividing the year-end value of your tax-deferred account by a life expectancy divisor found on a chart provided by the IRS.
Separate Property Generally, all assets you acquire prior to marriage and assets acquired by gift or inheritance during marriage.
Separate Trust A trust established by one person. A married couple has separate trusts if each spouse has his/her own trust with its own assets. In contrast, see "Common Trust."
Settle an Estate The process of handling the final affairs (valuation of assets, payment of debts and taxes, distribution of assets to Beneficiaries) after someone dies.
Settlor See "Grantor."
Special Gifts A separate listing of special assets that will go to specific individuals or organizations after your incapacity or death. Also called special bequests.
Special Needs Trust Allows you to provide for a disabled loved one without interfering with government benefits.
Spendthrift Clause Protects assets in a trust from a beneficiaryís creditors.
Spouse Husband or wife.
Stepped-up Basis Assets are given a new basis when transferred by inheritance (through a will or trust) and are re-valued as of the date of the ownerís death. If an asset has appreciated above its basis (what the owner paid for it), the new basis is called a stepped-up basis. A stepped-up basis can save a considerable amount in capital gains tax when an asset is later sold by the new owner. Also see "Basis."
Subchapter S Corporation Stock Stock in a corporation which has chosen to be subject to the rules of subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code.
Surviving Spouse The spouse who is living after one spouse has died.
Survivorís Trust See "A Trust."
Successor Trustee Person or institution named in the trust document who will take over should the first trustee die, resign, or otherwise become unable to act.
Tax-Deferred Plan A retirement savings plan (like an IRA, 401(k), pension, profit sharing, or Keogh) that qualifies for special income tax treatment. The contributions made to the plan and subsequent appreciation of the assets are not taxed until they are withdrawn at a later time -- ideally, at retirement, when your income and tax rate are lower.
Taxable Gift Generally, a gift of more than $11,000 in one year to someone other than your spouse. The value of the gift is applied to your federal gift and estate tax exemption, and no gift tax is required to be paid until the exemption has been exhausted. (This amount is tied to inflation and may increase from year to year.)
Tenants-in-Common A form of joint ownership in which two or more persons own the same property. At the death of a tenant-in-common, his/her share transfers to his/her heirs.
Tenants-by-the Entirety A form of joint ownership in some states between husband and wife. When one spouse dies, his/her share of the asset automatically transfers to the surviving spouse.
Testamentary Trust A trust in a will. Can only go into effect at death. Does not avoid probate.
Testate One who dies with a valid will.
Title Document proving ownership of an asset.
Transfer Tax Tax on assets when they are transferred to another. The estate tax, gift tax and generation skipping transfer tax are all transfer taxes.
Trust An entity that holds assets for the benefit of certain other persons or entities.
Trust Company An institution that specializes in managing trusts. Also called a corporate trustee.
Trustee Person or institution who manages and distributes anotherís assets according to the instructions in the trust document.
Trustor See "Grantor."
Totten Trust A "pay-on-death" account. A bank account that will transfer to the beneficiary who was named when the account was established. The terms "transfer on death" ("TOD"), "in trust for" ("ITF"), "as trustee for" ("ATF"), and "pay on death" ("POD") often appear in the title.
Unified Credit The amount each person is allowed to deduct from any federal estate taxes owed after death. In 2002 and 2003, the credit is $345,800, which is the amount of estate taxes owed on the first $1 million in assets.
Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA) Law enacted in many states that lets you leave assets to a minor by appointing a custodian. In most states, the minor receives the assets at legal age.
Unfunded Your living trust is unfunded if you have not transferred assets into it.
Warranty Deed Document that allows you to transfer title to real estate. With a warranty deed, the person guarantees that the title being transferred is clear (free of any encumbrances). If the title is defective, the person making the transfer is liable. Compare to quitclaim deed.
Will A written document with instructions for disposing of assets after death. A will can only be enforced through the probate court.

Kenneth Wheeler DBA

Financial Exchange

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Grimes (Des Moines), Iowa 50111


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Greater Des Moines Partnership


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One's property of value inevitably transfers ownership, with or without one's wishes.  

Prepare now to save your family wealth.  Ken Wheeler


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Last Modified: 08/10/2012
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