Preparing an estate plan is personal and highly individualized. You should also prepare it with a knowledgeable team of professionals; your lawyer, accountant, trust officer, financial and insurance advisors.
A sage once said; “planning for the future means considering many possibilities before they occur”. We all know it’s impossible to accurately predict future events. And in the case of estate planning, you are in all respects creating a plan for others at a future point in time. Those others may be your closest family, your children, or business associates.
Whether your total estate is large or small, estate planning can help you preserve your assets, manage money during your lifetime, and facilitate the administration of your affairs after your death.
Furthermore, a well prepared estate planning document can accomplish the following:
- Ensure that assets are distributed to your heirs according to your wishes.
- Minimize estate taxes and court costs.
- Allow you to choose a trusted executor who knows your wishes, your family, and the contents of your estate.
- Allow you to nominate a guardian for your children.
- Allow your business to continue after your death, with a successor of your choosing, reducing the chance of a forced sale.
Many individuals believe that a will is a sufficient means of estate planning. Having a will is a great first step, but it may be legally insufficient.
Here are some of the basic building blocks of an estate plan:
- A valid and up-to-date will.
- A durable power of attorney.
- A healthcare proxy that names an individual to make healthcare decisions for you when you’re unable. This might be your spouse, close relative, or friend.
- Instructions to your executor regarding the disposition of assets to heirs and beneficiaries.
- An inventory of your estate’s assets such as real estate, investments, personal belongings etc.
- Life insurance to provide funds for your survivors to help pay debts and estate taxes.
Finally, your estate plan is never finished and it should be reviewed periodically with the help and guidance of your estate planning team.