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The insurance industry also includes a number of independent organizations that provide a wide array of insurance-related services to carriers and their clients. One such service is the processing of claims forms for medical practitioners. Other services include loss prevention and risk management. Also, insurance companies sometimes hire independent claims adjusters to investigate accidents and claims for property damage and to assign a dollar estimate to the claim. 

Other organizations in the industry are formed by groups of insurance companies, to perform functions that would result in a duplication of effort if each company carried them out individually. For example, service organizations are supported by insurance companies to provide loss statistics, which the companies use to set their rates. 

Estate Planning 

Planning your estate is to distribute your assets according to your wishes after your death. Successful estate planning transfers your assets to your beneficiaries quickly and usually with minimal tax consequences. The process of estate planning includes inventorying your assets and making a will and/or establishing a trust, often with an emphasis on minimizing taxes. This pamphlet provides only a general overview of estate planning. You should consult an attorney, or perhaps a CPA or tax advisor for additional guidance. 

Do I Need to Worry? 

You may think estate planning is only for the wealthy. If your assets are worth $1,000,000 or more, estate planning may benefit your heirs. That's because generally taxable estates worth in excess of the amounts in the chart below may be subject to federal estate taxes, with rates as high as 45% to 50% of the taxable estate. 

Adding up the value of your assets can be an eye-opening experience. By the time you account for your home, investments, retirement savings and life insurance policies you own, you may find your estate in the taxable category. 

Even if your estate is not likely to be subject to federal estate taxes, estate planning may be necessary to be sure your intentions for disposition of your assets are carried out. 

YEAR 

EXCLUSION AMOUNT 

HIGHEST ESTATE TAX RATE 

2002 

$1,000,000 

50% 

2003 

$1,500,000 

49% 

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