What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is a very important component of everyone’s financial plans, regardless of the size of the estate. It’s the only way to control what happens to your assets when you become disabled or pass away.
Why do I need an Estate Plan?
An estate plan will help protect you and your family in the event of illness, accidents or untimely death. Estate planning is one of the most overlooked areas of personal financial management. It is estimated that over 120,000,000 Americans do not have up-to-date estate plans.
Elements of an estate plan:
- A will lets you specify your wishes, including how you want your property distributed, who will administer your estate and who will care for your minor children. (If you do not have a will, the state will make these decisions for you).
- A trust holds your assets for the benefit of one or more people (you, your spouse, your children). We will work directly with you and your attorney to put the right trust in place.
- Life insurance proceeds are paid to a beneficiary at your death.
- Gifts are transfers of property made during your life to family, friends or charity.
- Tax exclusions are available as important estate planning tools. Consult your tax professional for details.
Some common goals of estate planning:
- Provide for your family if you become disabled or pass away
- Express your wishes regarding medical care
- Control the distribution of your assets
- Help protect your assets against the high cost of long-term care
- Help your family avoid unnecessary estate tax liability
- Designate someone to make medical, financial or legal decisions for you when you cannot
- Minimize delays and frustrations with estate settlement
- Benefit a charity
- Maintain peace among family members after you have passed.
One very important component of your estate plan is designating a personal representative to carry out your wishes documented in your will. If a Trust is part of your estate plan, you will also designate a trustee to administer the trust. This decision takes very careful consideration given the duties entrusted to the designated individual or institution.
Designing a plan consistent with your dreams and values can be complex and overwhelming. Be assured, it is well worth the process! Just talking about estate planning isn’t enough, since verbal agreements aren’t legal. You need proper, legal documentation listing all of your personal and financial information as well as your personal goals and wishes. We have estate planning experts who will be happy to help you put a plan in place.