Estate Planning Basics

Estate planning is a process that helps you plan for your future, take care of your loved ones, and keep the IRS from taking more than they are entitled to.  Your estate includes everything you own.  This covers everything from real estate to smaller items, of both monetary and sentimental value, such as jewelry, life insurance policies, trusts, collectibles, and vehicles. A well prepared estate plan will even take care of your genealogical records, journals, irreplaceable family pictures, and your great-grandmother’s wedding dress.  An estate plan will ensure that each of these items gets into the hands of the person or organization you choose.

Who Needs Estate Planning?

Estate planning is a tool that is beneficial for the financial needs of the average person. Not only can this help if you need to provide for minor children, still at home, but it can also help with personal goals you may have, throughout your lifetime. This includes long-term care and making the most of your retirement funds, so you can continue to keep a comfortable lifestyle during your retirement years, despite the future financial climate and inflation.

Do any of these apply to you?

Have a spouse, an adult child, own real estate, own a business, own a farm, wish to provide for a disabled family member, have money in a bank account, have any kind of retirement account, any investment, collectibles, family heirlooms, or any item with sentimental value?

Incremental and Comprehensive Estate Planning

Incremental Estate Planning:

“This estate plan is a personalized process that is developed one small step, at a time. Right now, your interest in an estate plan may only be about writing your will and securing power of attorney for both your health and financial concerns. In the future, you may have a higher interest in adding long-term care, as well as other insurance policies.

Comprehensive Estate Planning:

Another way is to develop a full estate plan. This will include everything in the Incremental plan, but will also include designing a full plan to help you with your personal goals. This includes any tax minimization, wealth accumulation, and protection of your assets in the future.

An estate plan is specific to the needs of your personal life and the goals you make for the care of your loved ones at the end of your life. Depending on the assets and wishes of the individual, estate planning can be very simple or quite complex. As your assets increase and your priorities change and become more complex, you will find your estate plan will become more comprehensive. No matter how simple your estate is, a will is the foundation for any estate plan, Beyond this, you may also include life, annuity, or disability insurance, trusts, health and financial powers of attorney, and a living will. A comprehensive estate plan will consider your total assets. This will include any benefits provided by your employer and will help with your objectives while remaining tax-efficient.

Seek a Professional Advisor:

There are many professionals who can help you develop your estate plan. These include retirement advisors, certified public accountants, and specialized estate planning attorneys. A comprehensive estate plan includes financial and personal goals, future wealth transfer, and tax planning. Because of this, it is important to work with a team of advisors who can help you set up and accomplish your estate plan.

Ask for Referrals:

Choosing an advisor is a commitment you want to take seriously. You want to find someone you are comfortable with who can help you personalize your specific goals. If you need help determining who would best help you accomplish your goals, ask your accountant or attorney who they recommend for estate planning; friends or family members who have recently made their own estate plans a state bar or CPA referral service. For a small fee, they can recommend specialized professionals in good standing.

Keep up to Date: It is important to occasionally review your estate plan. This could include new tax laws, insurance coverage, or a change in assets. It is especially important to remember if you move to another state. Different states have different laws that can affect your will, as well as your powers of attorney. In order to safeguard your estate, it is important to make sure everything is maintained, in order to have your estate plan executed the way you want it. This will protect your goals and save your loved ones from future problems.

Estate planning is a sound investment that offers you a way to provide financial security for yourself and your loved ones, as well as making sure the treasures that are most important to you are passed on to those you know they were meant for. At the same time, this also helps minimize any tax obligations on your beneficiaries.

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