Estate planning is a tool that financial professionals use in order to help individuals prepare for the transfer of wealth and assets upon death.
To avoid additional stress, unnecessary costs & confusion, having an estate plan in place will offer a great deal of comfort to your loved ones.
Everyone can benefit from estate planning, married, single, divorced or widowed.
If you are single when you die, this can create some complicated issues for potential heirs and you should seek professional help from an experienced Estate Planner.
At a minimum, everybody should have the three following items in place upon passing:
An Updated Trust or Will.
Wills are easy to create and require that your assets be distributed through probate.
This process requires more paperwork and court appearances; and costs are paid out of the estate assets which will reduce the amount going to your heirs.
Trusts are the preferred method of passing your items to loved ones, predominately because they usually pass “Probate Free”.
Because of what they entail, they can take a little more time and expense to set up than a will. You should always seek a competent Estate Planner for assistance setting up a trust.
Trusts provide additional benefits that a will cannot. A will only works after you have passed and it is “Public” record.
A trust can help you avoid conservatorship or guardianship if for some reason you become incapacitated. Also a Trust is a “Private” record, once it is funded properly.
Also, depending on how the trust is structured, your heirs typically gain access to your assets faster and with less expense than a will provides.
Updated Beneficiary Designation Forms.
Beneficiary designation forms on your 401k, life insurance policies and other assets will generally override your provisions in a will or trust.
These forms should be updated on an annual basis and be handled by an estate planning professional.
A Power of Attorney
If you become disabled or incapacitated, a power of attorney lets somebody else make legal and financial decisions on your behalf.
Some power of attorneys are for short periods of time and some are for longer periods of time often referred to as a Durable Power of Attorney.
There are also “Medical” and “Financial” Power of Attorneys. Some states also have a “Mental HealthCare” Power of Attorney.
Divorce and Estate Planning
If you are recently divorced or widowed, you should always check the beneficiary designations on all of your accounts to make sure they won’t be given to former spouses against your wishes.
A divorce can make dividing up your estate much more difficult. A fair and accurate division of your retirement accounts is necessary so that you do not experience a shortfall later in life when you want to retire.