If you were to judge them by its popular portrayal in television and film, you might think that estate planning is a domain reserved for the super-rich–or even villainous misers who care for nothing more than their monetary fortune. Like many depictions in popular media, the truth in the real world is far from how it’s reflected on the screen. The average person, like you, places value not in the sheer quantity of their wealth, but in the welfare of your loved ones. That means not only passing your assets on, but also safeguarding your health care and passing on your human assets, like your stories and your values, as well.
1. Your health. Many young people don’t give any thought to estate planning, falsely characterizing the process as something they are “too young for”. Unfortunately, no one can count on life always turning out that way and an estate plan that’s properly designed for a person’s stage of life will benefit and protect people at any age. For instance, one primary objective of an estate plan is addressing your medical needs in case you cannot make healthcare decisions for yourself. Everyone would benefit from naming an individual to make the big decisions in their care and leaving directions as to their wishes in regards to those decisions. You need someone to take a stand for your wishes, but they may not be able to without the proper legal documentation.
2. Probate. Unless your family is especially eager to have a front row seat in very public court proceedings, along with the expense and all–you need to focus on keeping control out of the hands of a Judge who is a stranger to you, your family, and what you value. An ancillary benefit of successful estate planning is keeping your family out of any situation that might fit in a bad soap opera.
3. Family feuds. Little tears loving families apart like money. Without an estate plan and a trusted adviser to guide your family members through the process, the distribution of the assets left behind can get personal. Saddest of all, the relationships in the family can be irreparably harmed over stuff, and often the monetary value of the stuff involved may be trivial or even zero. In my considerable experience being brought in to mediate the consequences of a lacking or absent estate plan, one of the biggest flashpoints happens in the family basement where priceless items of zero monetary value–the knickknacks, souvenirs, and anything else of sentimental value, are stored. If you don’t want your family to fight, plan your estate.
4. Beneficiary forms. There are a number of assets that you likely hold that can be better transferred than using your estate plan. Beneficiary forms govern things like IRAs, life insurance, retirement plans, and annuities, specifying the recipient of the account holder’s assets upon the his or her passing. You’ve put in the money, make sure it goes to the right place.
5. Kids and parents. Remember: Estate planning is necessary at all ages. If you have any dependents, be they minor children, elderly parents, or a person who has special needs, you will want them to receive the best possible care in the event of your death. See our previous blog post on “Your Kids are Your Greatest Treasure” for more on how to set up a Kids’ Protection Plan.
6. Managing assets. Who would best be put in charge of the entirety of your assets? A spouse or other family member may not always be capable, so choose someone you know will manage your money wisely. That way the money will be there when those you love need it.
7. Business succession. Are you a business owner? What will happen to your ownership shares once you’re no longer there? For the sake of your business and your heirs, it is vital that you put in place a foolproof succession plan.
If you would like to have a talk about guiding your loved ones through estate planning, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.
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