Estate Planning BasicsSubmitted by MIRUS Financial Partners on October 11th, 2018
Why is estate planning so critical? Because, at your death, you leave behind the people you love and all your worldly goods. Without proper planning, you have no say about who gets what, and more of your property may go to unintended recipients instead of your loved ones. If you care about how and to whom your property is distributed, you need to prepare your estate plan.
Who needs estate planning?
Estate planning is important regardless of your financial situation. In fact, it may be more important if you have a smaller estate because the final expenses could have a much greater impact on your estate. Wasting even a single asset may cause your loved ones to suffer from a lack of financial resources.
Your estate plan may be relatively simple and inexpensive, such as preparing a will to distribute basic accounts and assets and designating beneficiaries for your life insurance policy(s) and retirement account(s). If your estate is larger or you have more assets, the estate planning process may be more complex and expensive. In any case, you'll probably need the help of professionals, including an estate planning attorney, a financial planner, an accountant, and possibly an insurance professional.
Estate planning can help you if you want to:
Provide for your family's financial security
Ensure that your property is preserved and passed on to your beneficiaries
Avoid disputes among family members
Provide for family members' education
Determine who will manage your assets and property after your death and who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes (e.g., executor, personal representative, trustee)
Minimize estate and other taxes
Plan for your potential incapacity
Your estate plan should be geared to your particular circumstances. Some factors that may impact your estate plan include whether:
You own real estate, especially if you own property in different states
You have minor children or children with special needs
You are married
You intend to contribute to charity
Your estate might be subject to estate tax
You become disabled or incapacitated and are unable to manage your financial affairs
How do you begin planning your estate?
Begin with an analysis of what you own. The type of assets and property you own can affect how you plan your estate. Next, formulate goals and objectives for your estate plan. Decide whom you want to inherit from your estate. Consider whether you want to place any restrictions or conditions on an inheritance (e.g., specify a replacement should a named beneficiary predecease you; control distributions to minors or someone you consider a spendthrift).
Consider how taxes might impact your estate. Taxes that may factor into your estate plan include federal and/or state gift and estate taxes, state inheritance taxes, and federal and/or state income taxes.
Your Estate Planning Checklist
Many strategies and tools available that can help you carry out your estate plan. In most cases, these tools are governed by specific state law, as well as federal law in some instances. Therefore, you should consult with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney to ensure that your legal documents and estate plan comply with the appropriate laws. Your financial advisor can help you structure your assets in ways that meet your estate planning needs and often works with your attorney to help you complete your estate plan.
When speaking with an attorney, you'll want to discuss the following:
Last will and testament: A legal document that describes to whom and how you want your property distributed, names the person or entity that will administer your estate, and specifies who will care for your minor or disabled child.
Trust: A separate legal entity that can hold property and assets, for the benefit of one or more people or entities (e.g., spouse, children, charities), and can be implemented while you're living or at your death, usually through your will. Trusts may incur up-front costs and often have ongoing administrative fees.
Durable (financial) power of attorney: A document in which you name someone to act on your behalf for a specific purpose (e.g., sell your home) or to manage your financial affairs should you become unable to do so yourself.
Health-care directives: A health-care proxy and living will allow you to express your wishes about the administration of medical treatment and life-prolonging measures during times when you cannot otherwise express those intentions.
Guardian for minors: Generally included in your will, this is the person who will be responsible for the care and protection of your minor children.
Beneficiary designations: Often overlooked, this important function applies to financial products you own such as life insurance, annuities, and qualified savings accounts such as your Thrift Savings Plan and IRAs, and supersede instructions in a will.
Funeral and burial arrangements: Your wishes for your funeral, the disposition of your remains (e.g., cremation, burial), and organ donations .may be expressed in your will, trust, or in a separate writing.
Life insurance can be an essential part of estate planning. For many people, life insurance is an affordable way to provide a large death benefit to surviving family members, friends, associations, or charities. To find out more about life insurance. be sure to check out our blogs
Create Your Estate Plan Now
To make sure your loved ones are taken care of, proper estate planning is necessary. If you care about how and to whom your property is distributed, contact Mirus Financial Partners to get more information on estate planning.
And be sure to check out our blogs on estate planning: