While it’s natural in uncertain times to think more about “getting your ducks in a row”, if your retirement is fast approaching then estate planning is an essential part of your retirement plan. When it comes to estate planning, it’s always best to be prepared.
Why Estate Planning is Important
Estate planning is a holistic process involving important legal, financial and personal decisions – a set of tasks designed to give you a say in how your assets are handled after your death, or if you become seriously ill or incapacitated.
More than that, though, estate planning is an act of love meant to relieve the emotional, financial, and philosophical burden from your loved ones during difficult times.
If you know you need to start working on or revisit your estate plan, but just haven’t been able to muster up the motivation, consider the benefits:
More Inheritance, Less Tax
Whether it’s a mountain cabin, cash gift or stock portfolio, your beneficiaries will have to pay taxes on the assets they inherit. Working with a financial planner during estate planning ensures your assets will create the smallest possible tax burden for your loved ones.
Leave a Map For Your Heirs
Unless you explicitly tell them, your children may not realize you have a life insurance policy, what’s inside your safety deposit box or how to access your IRA, 401(k) and other retirement accounts. Save your children and/or your spouse from having to look for your assets, which can be time-consuming and stressful. Not to mention, they may miss something.
Avoid Potential Conflicts
When you name the beneficiaries for your property, you reduce the possibility of family strife of over assets. Even families with great relationships may experience disharmony over unclaimed property when a loved one dies. Don’t leave it to them to figure out; take the matter into your own hands.
If you happen to be the guardian of a grandchild or the parent of an adult child with special needs, naming a successive guardian in your estate plan is the only way to ensure they’re protected and properly cared for after you’re gone.
Exercise Your Last Wishes
From leaving your legacy behind to a charitable cause to providing support for your spouse, children, and/or grandchildren, we all have an idea of how we’d like things to go. Taking control of your estate plan can provide great peace of mind in knowing that your last wishes will be followed–and not decided by the court.
Getting Started with Estate Planning
The process of preparing your estate can seem overwhelming or complicated, but you don’t have to do it alone. When you work with a fiduciary financial planner, you can get the personalized estate planning guidance you need.
Let’s start breaking down some of the primary documents you’ll need to get started with your estate plan:
Inventory of Assets
All tangible and intangible assets—everything from bank accounts, pensions, and retirement accounts to automobiles, boats, paintings, real estate, ownership in a business and even debt—will all become part of your future estate. Make a list and keep it updated as circumstances change to help your estate planning go more smoothly.
In this legally binding document, you’ll lay out how to handle your property after death, and name an executor to carry out your intentions. Drafting a will now can head off future family squabbles by spelling out who inherits what.
Also known as the “health care directive", and "advance directive”, a living will tells loved ones and medical personnel what to do if you become unable to speak on your own behalf. This document gives you the chance to express your wishes while you are able, by specifying the treatment you want (or don’t want) in life-threatening situations.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, also sometimes called healthcare power of attorney (HCPA), can be included in your advance directive during estate planning. It designates who can make medical decisions for you when you are unable. It is not the same as a living will.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney
Not to be confused with the healthcare directive above, Durable Financial Power of Attorney names a person who can make financial decisions if you become mentally incapacitated. This person would be able to do things like sign checks, file tax returns, mail and deposit Social Security checks and manage your retirement investment accounts.
Revocable Living Trust
A revocable living trust is an estate planning tool that allows you to maintain control of your finances today and minimize problems for your heirs later. It does not replace a will, but depending on your age, the kind of assets you own, and other circumstances, you might want to consider adding this type of trust.
Estate Planning is Part of a Healthy Financial Plan
Estate planning can be a neglected part of financial planning - and it shouldn’t be. It may not be as fun as planning how you'll spend your free time when you retire - but it’s equally important.
Estate planning is an integral part of your bigger retirement planning picture - but it’s just one piece of the equation. Think of estate planning as a single slice of your “successful retirement pie” along with your personal, lifestyle, and financial goals, and your savings and investments.
See what we mean about retirement planning being a holistic process?
Most estate plans are set up with the help of an attorney practiced in estate law, a financial planner, and potentially a tax advisor. At Wealth Legacy Institute, we lead you through the entire planning process from start to finish, including connecting you with trusted partners with whom we do business - so you don’t have to worry. We are fiduciaries, which means it’s literally our job to put your needs first.