Demystifying Estate Planning – Key Steps For a Secure Future
Estate planning is essential for a secure financial future. However, it’s often intimidating for clients – particularly those with businesses or young families.
The process can be complex, with unfamiliar terminology and legal jargon. By demystifying the essential steps, advisors can help clients protect their assets and provide certainty to loved ones.
Identifying Your Needs
While many consider estate planning a tool only for wealthy individuals, everyone should have an estate plan. It is not only a way to ensure that your family and friends receive your property after you die, but it also allows you to set up wills and trusts to minimize taxes and help you avoid probate.
Creating a plan can also help your loved ones locate and organize your information, titles, and insurance policies in case they need to manage your finances or make medical decisions on your behalf. Without a personal info organizer, bills may go unpaid, and insurance policies could lapse.
It is important to stay up-to-date with your financial knowledge, and you should consult with professional resources in areas such as banking, legal services, and insurance. Meeting regularly with a PBAF program coordinator will help you determine the areas of knowledge you need and create an action plan.
Creating a Will
One essential element of estate planning is a will. It lets you assign assets to beneficiaries, designate guardians for young children, and choose an executor.
Your “estate” includes everything you own, from real property and cars to personal items like heirlooms. It also includes financial products, such as life insurance and retirement accounts. It even includes things you share with others, such as joint accounts.
Having a will is important because it helps your family avoid unnecessary legal expenses and conflicts after you pass away. Reviewing it regularly is a good idea, as circumstances may change. This is especially true when there’s a significant event in the family, such as a birth, death, or divorce. Also, consider setting aside time to revisit it every two or three years.
Creating a Living Trust
You may find it simple to put estate preparation on the back burner when you have a long to-do list. But this is a crucial duty that guarantees your belongings and assets are allocated by your desires.
One approach to achieve this is by setting up a living trust. This entails transferring your assets into the trust, designating a trustee, and leaving clear instructions for the trust in the event of your passing. Revocable or irrevocable trusts are also possible.
A key benefit of this process is that it avoids probate, which is time-consuming and costly. It also allows the trustee to distribute assets more quickly after your death. Additionally, the grantor can add restrictions to control how and when the assets are distributed. This can help prevent family disputes, such as when the grantor wants to ensure that an irresponsible child does not squander their inheritance.
Creating a Power of Attorney
Power of attorney is a document that gives someone the authority to act on your behalf. This person is called an agent or attorney-in-fact, and choosing a trusted friend or family member is important.
Having a POA in place can help avoid having to go to court for a conservatorship, which is expensive and public. It also ensures that your friends and family know your wishes for your future.
There are several types of power of attorney, and it’s essential to talk with your estate planning lawyer about the responsibilities you wish your agent to have. For example, you may not want them to amend your will or create trusts. You should also include what kind of powers you want your agent to have in your document.
Creating a Health Care Directive
An important component of estate planning is creating health care directives, sometimes called advance medical directives. These documents, usually a living will and durable power of attorney for health care, spell out your medical wishes in case you become incapacitated.
A living will explains the type of treatment you want or do not want, including breathing machines, dialysis, and other life support. If you cannot make decisions for yourself, a durable power of attorney for health care offers someone you can trust the legal ability to make decisions on your behalf.
Both forms must be in writing and signed by you, a witness, and a notary. Some states offer registries to store these forms online for quick access by your doctors and health care agents. Keep copies safe and give copies to your proxy, doctor, and loved ones.