The Essentials of Estate Planning
More often than not when I am having an initial conversation with a prospective client, I usually uncover the lack of a well thought-out and carefully crafted estate plan. In fact, a survey in 2020 from Caring.com shows a 25% decrease since 2017 in the number of people who have a will or similar document. Based on the survey’s data, less than one-third say they have an estate plan. Of those who do have estate planning documents, about 24% have a will, 13% have a living trust and only 6% have an advanced healthcare directive.
In my office, I bring it up in my first conversation with prospective clients, and in some cases I begin with the estate plan before the investments.
An estate plan, like a financial plan, is always a work in progress. It should be reviewed periodically and updated to reflect any changes in life events. These types of events can include, but are not limited to, marriage, divorce, financial changes, and other changes to family dynamics.
Also, changes in the law can affect a previously established estate plan. There could be better options for individuals, families, and business owners for protecting assets, paying taxes, safeguarding wishes, and ensuring the overall well-being of the people you care about.
To create a truly effective estate plan, these essential documents need to be addressed:
- Living trusts
- Durable powers of attorney for financial and medical affairs
- Living wills for end-of-life decisions
If crafted correctly by a reputable estate planning attorney, especially in collaboration with your financial and tax professionals, these powerful documents can provide security for families and their loved ones.
It is also important to carefully consider who will represent your wishes if you are not able to. Choosing key individuals such as power of attorney or personal representative and/or trustee needs careful thought and consideration. You may also consider whether you should share your plan with key individuals such as adult children or grandchildren.
Sharing what’s in an estate plan can cause conflict within a family, so it is worth taking a thoughtful approach to revealing this information.
Final note, if you aren’t prepared and there is not a plan for what should happen in case of incapacitation and/or death, the state in which you reside will have a plan on your behalf putting your needs, wants, and wishes at risk. Therefore, it is important to have this conversation and establish a plan sooner rather than later.
Licensed Financial Advisors Joseph Grutta, EA, CFP and Kevin Chancellor have over 40 years of combined experience in the financial services industry. Their practice focuses on helping business owners, individuals, and families with Comprehensive Financial Planning© in the areas of tax, asset protection, and financial services.
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