Do you have an estate plan? You should have a carefully conceived estate plan which allows you to decide how your assets will be handled when you pass away or become incapacitated. You’ve probably spent a great deal of time and energy accumulating your assets, and a good estate plan will help protect your interests once you no longer are able to.
Failure to properly plan your estate can leave your family’s property vulnerable. And the larger your estate, the more critical it is to plan ahead. As you think about your estate plan, consider these questions:
- How important is it for you to maintain complete control of all your assets during your lifetime?
- How much work are you willing to do now in order to make your loved one’s lives are easier after you’re gone?
- How willing are you to undertake aggressive estate tax strategies?
There are a number of ways to employ “gifting” and to utilize trusts in estate planning. Some are complicated and should only be considered with the guidance of your estate planning professional.
If you have not taken the time to plan your estate, you’re not alone. Many people avoid this because they see it as an unpleasant task. Having an estate plan in place will ensure that your property is distributed according to your wishes and that any taxes, fees, and costs (there are always taxes, fees and costs) involved in settling your estate can be minimized. Taking the time to develop a plan puts you in charge of how financial and medical decisions are made if you become incapacitated or die.
In addition to peace of mind, an estate plan can help you ensure the following:
- Your assets are distributed quickly with a minimum of legal hassle.
- Provide support and stability for your surviving spouse/partner, children, or grandchildren.
- Preserve assets for future generations (This is especially important if your estate is large enough to be subject to estate taxes, or if you have children from a previous marriage).
- Ensure that your wishes are carried out if you can no longer manage your affairs.
- Support a favorite charity with a gift of money, securities, or other property.
- Minimize the taxes and expenses that may be incurred in settling your estate.
- Provide sufficient cash to meet the estate’s expenses and avoid the forced sale of assets.
- Protect your privacy. A will becomes public record once your estate is settled. An estate plan can be designed to prevent this invasion of privacy.
- Make certain that your family business will pass intact to your heirs.
Answering a few fundamental questions can help you appreciate the importance of an estate plan and the ways in which it can help protect your assets and ensure your legacy.
- Who will inherit my assets? How your money is handled after you pass away is as important as how you handle it now. No doubt you have specific ideas about the way you want your assets distributed. Through the use of a will or trust, you can state your wishes in a legally binding way.
- Who will help me if I’m incapacitated? In the event you’re unable to manage your financial affairs, a durable power of attorney lets you name a representative to act in your place, allowing a trusted family member or friend to manage your finances, including paying your bills.
- Who makes the tough personal health care decisions if you can’t? An “Advance Health Care Directive” allows you to give specific instructions about your health care and provides the ability to name a trusted person to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
As your personal and your family situations inevitably change, your estate plan will need to evolve. Estate planning is a continual process that can affect your financial, tax, medical, and business planning strategies, as well as the people closest to you. When you answer the above questions, you ensure the effectiveness of your estate plan and help give your family and the people closest to you peace of mind. Consult with an experienced estate planning professional to help plan your estate today!
I’m estate planning attorney Eric Rudolph at 760.702.4046 and at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact me for more information.