Estate planning basics
Planning Ahead Will Help Your Loved Ones When You Are Gone
Death and dying are delicate topics of discussion — especially with family. But avoiding these sensitive subjects serves no one. Instead, you can help your loved ones now by squaring away your final wishes for the future. As you near retirement age, have those important conversations on how you want your estate settled.
Inventory Your Assets
Investments, retirement accounts, insurance policies, real estate, bank accounts and many of your belongings have value and are considered assets. Document them and their worth. Think about who you would like to inherit these assets.
Choose Your POAs and Executor
Think about who you would like to handle certain aspects of your final days. Name a medical power of attorney (POA) to make medical decisions on your behalf, should you become unable to make such decisions on your own. A financial power of attorney can also handle any financial matters if you’re unable to, or once you have passed. And choose and executor of your estate to make sure your wishes are carried out and that everything goes to the right people and/or entities that you’ve specified in your will. These can all be different individuals or just one person.
Create Your Will
Your will is a key element of your estate plan. A will is a legal document that outlines your intentions for your assets after you’re gone. Some people also choose to have a “living will” or “health care proxy” to give direction in the event of catastrophic circumstances.
Create a Trust
Do you need a trust? It depends on the amount of assets you have and how you wish to distribute them. A will might suffice if there aren’t many assets and few survivors who will receive them. But if you have a lot of assets and it looks like things may get complicated, you might want to set up a trust.
A trust is basically a fiduciary arrangement that specifies how your assets will be distributed at the time of your passing, usually without the involvement of a probate court. Unlike a will, a trust isn’t subject to public scrutiny and can be arranged to accomplish a variety of different goals.
For example, you can use a trust to transfer property, help minimize estate taxes, preserve assets for minors until they are adults or donate to a charity.
It’s always good to periodically make sure the beneficiaries listed for your various retirement and financial accounts, as well as on your life insurance policies, are accurate. Beneficiaries listed on these accounts will take priority over any wishes you express in your will.
Consider Hiring an Attorney and Financial Professional
Because the execution of your estate plan will require various legal documents, you may want to hire an attorney that specializes in estate planning. They can help you draft your will, create written powers of attorney, set up trusts, and prepare other legal documents that make sure that your wishes are carried out in a fair and legal manner. And because of the distribution of financial assets, tax implications and more, a financial professional who specializes in estate planning can help your survivors, beneficiaries and heirs make sense of and work through any financial issues or complications that may arise. It’s important for these two professionals to work together.
1. Gallup, How Many Americans Have a Will?, https://news.gallup.com/poll/351500/how-many-americans-have-will.aspx, Jeffrey M. Jones, 2020.
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Provided content is for overview and informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be relied upon as individualized tax, legal, fiduciary, or investment advice. These concepts were derived under current laws and regulations. Changes in the law or regulations may affect the information provided. For answers to specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney, tax advisor, or financial professional.
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The views and opinions expressed by Peter Dunn (aka Pete the Planner) are solely his and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the companies of OneAmerica. Pete the Planner’s content is for overview and informational purposes only and is not intended as tax, legal, fiduciary, or investment advice. Pete the Planner is not an affiliate of any OneAmerica company.