If you’ve got people in your life who you love and want to take care of, it’s wise to build an estate plan. This plan, which you can put together with the help of an estate planning specialist, will make sure loved ones are taken care of in the event of your death. An estate plan is more than just drawing up a will. It also involves formalizing how you want to be looked after (medically and financially) if something happens to you, or if you’re unable to make your own decisions later in life. Your estate plan will also clarify how you want your assets to be protected during your lifetime and distributed after your death. State planning entails the preparation of will or codicil, setting up trusts, bequeathing gifts to persons or entities and/or granting authority to do certain acts by way of power of attorney. This discuss will explain the various forms of estate planning and highlight its benefits.
Reasons to Create Your Plan
Very few people wake up in the morning and wish they could spend the day working with their attorney to create an ‘estate plan.’ However, creating (or updating) a plan is among the most important things you can do. When you do, you can:
• Ensure the property you have accumulated over your lifetime goes exactly where you want it to go and when. If you don’t have a will or living trust, the state has a distribution plan for you, which may or may not be in accordance with your wishes.
• Give directions to be followed in case you become incapacitated and can’t make decisions for yourself.
• Organize your affairs and designate who will handle them when you are gone.
• Appoint a guardian for any minor-aged children.
• Provide for any special needs your loved ones may have.
• Minimize possible estate taxes and costs.
• Specify the type of funeral arrangements you would like.
• Remember and provide for friends, pets, and organizations you care about but are never a part of the default state distribution scheme.
By planning, you also make things easier for your family. If something happens to you, it will already be a very difficult time for your family and other loved ones. How wonderful it will be if they know exactly what you want to have happen and have the means at hand to follow your wishes. Consider the planning you do now to be your final future gift to your loved ones. While estate planning can entail some difficult choices and means confronting uncomfortable issues, it does provide a sense of relief and peace of mind when it is done. You’ll know that you have done your best to plan and provide for yourself and for loved ones, as well as for the causes you’ve cared about during your lifetime. There is great satisfaction in knowing what your legacy on earth will be.
A valid will is generally type written, dated, and signed by you as well as two legally competent witnesses. States differ as to the exact requirements for a valid will and whether a handwritten will, with or without witnesses, are valid. The probate court oversees administration of a valid will at death to carry out your instructions. The court charges probate fees to administer an estate and the documents and proceedings are public record.
Revocable Living Trust
This replaces the will as the main document disposing of your property. You might hear it referred to as a “living trust” or “RLT.” The trust is created while you are living, and the power to change and even revoke it can be retained. Most often people serve as the trustee for their own revocable living trust. A living trust requires that you actually transfer your property into it for it to be effective. A living trust allows assets to pass to heirs outside of the probate process, potentially saving probate fees, and keeps your affairs private. Typically, if a living trust is recommended your estate planning lawyer will also suggest a will as a backup document, to transfer any assets that weren’t included in your trust at the time of your death.
Your will or living trust does not control distribution of assets such as your IRA, commercial annuities, and some other assets at death. Your IRA or annuity administrator will distribute these types of assets according to a beneficiary designation form on file with their office. These are the forms you fill out when you establish IRAs or other types of retirement plans, or purchase a commercial annuity or life insurance policy. This form directs the administrator as to who will receive whatever remains upon your passing. You can also request a beneficiary designation for a bank or investment account. Since your will and living trust do not apply to these important assets, these beneficiary designations can have a profound impact on how your overall estate is distributed and should be part of any coordinated plan.
Power of Attorney (POA) for Financial Matters
This document grants to someone you trust the ability to act on your behalf for a variety of potential transactions and responsibilities. You decide when the POA will become effective and the extent of the authority granted. A POA is only effective during your lifetime and automatically terminates at your death.
Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA) for health care decisions
This document appoints someone to make decisions for you regarding medical treatment if you are not able to make these decisions for yourself. It allows you to specify who is in charge of making critical treatment decisions and, perhaps more importantly, who does not have that authority.
Physician’s Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST).
This document describes what health care treatment you want in case of an emergency. You work with your doctor to document your wishes regarding resuscitation and other life sustaining procedures.
Managing and Distributing Your Wealth
You might conceive of the estate planning process as constructing a pyramid from the ground up. Primarily, you want to do what you can to ensure your own well-being. In so doing, keep in mind that it’s not selfish to look out for yourself! Only by meeting your own needs now and in the future are you able to build the next level of the pyramid. If you’re fortunate enough to accomplish some important basics, you’re then in a position to provide for family members and other loved ones. Thereafter, if you have the desire and the means, it becomes appropriate to think about a legacy you can leave for causes dear to you in addition to family and friends.
The Benefits of Estate Planning
For the management of an individual’s property in the event of incapacity
In circumstances where a person is unable to manage their properties or finances due to severe illness or unavailability, an estate plan sets helps a person properly determine how their assets should be managed. A power of attorney, personal directives through letters of instruction and trusts can be effective tools for proper estate management.
For proper distribution of assets
Estate plan is very beneficial for accurate distribution of an individual’s assets. Wills, codicils, deeds of gifts and trusts enables an individual determine how their assets will be distributed to their beneficiaries after their death to prevent disputations in future. Without an estate plan, the court will determine how the assets of a deceased will be distributed.
For the protection of beneficiaries
An estate plan invariably protects the interest of beneficiaries by ensuring that their shares are properly specified and preserved. If an individual has a child who is a minor, the individual can designate guardians and trustees who will oversee the financial and other needs of the minor. On the other hand, if the individual’s children are adults, but are unable to manage finances or assets, the individual can create a trust to protect the children from making bad decisions.
For a speedy and efficient transfer of an individual’s assets
The deed of gift and trusts are very speedy and cost effective ways to transfer one’s assets to a beneficiary. Without proper estate plan, the process of transfer of assets may be extremely cumbersome. Estate planning helps an individual to identify cost effective and peaceful way to transfer their asset to their beneficiaries either during their lifetime or after their death.
To minimize cost and avoid disputes
An estate plan will specify how an individual’s assets will be managed and distributed to beneficiaries thereby leaving no room for speculations and confusion. Hence this will prevent disputations and invariably save time and money.
To minimize estate taxes
The significant loss of a part of one’s estate to the payment of taxes is a factor that should motivate people to establish an estate plan. Through strategic planning, people can substantially reduce or eliminate taxes by setting up trusts as part of their will, living trusts or bequeathing gifts to their beneficiaries during their lifetime. In conclusion, it is important to note that not every form of estate plan is suitable for everyone.
Each form of estate planning has its distinct and unique features and people’s. If an individual desires a speedy and cost effective process of property transfer, it’s important to consider the various forms of estate plan that will help the individual achieve their desired purpose. For example, executing a deed of gift or setting up trusts depending on the individual’s preference can be preferred to making a will because of the lengthy process of obtaining probate. Choosing the appropriate estate plan can ensure simple, tax efficient and organized transfer of assets to beneficiaries, it removes uncertainties and prevents disputes.
Factors To Consider In Estate And Financial Planning
Many individuals delay estate planning in Tracy because it involves end-of-life issues. However, regardless of your age or health, it’s always in your family’s best interests to consult an estate planning lawyer sooner, rather than later. Unexpected tragedies occur all too often; by dealing with these matters promptly, you can ensure that your family’s financial future is protected in the event of your passing. When you meet with an attorney to address matters such as your last will and testament, you’ll need to consider the following factors.
Evaluate Your Financial Situation
After scheduling a meeting with an estate planning lawyer, it’s time to gather together important financial documents. Review all of your financial information to determine the total value of your assets, and your current and anticipated cash flow. Compare your cash flow and assets to your total liabilities to determine your net worth. Consider other factors that may affect your finances in the future, such as the rising cost of living, your retirement or your spouse’s retirement, and unexpected, yet significant expenses, such as those related to a major illness. By understanding your particular financial situation, your estate planning lawyer can help you develop a sound financial plan for the future and for your heirs.
Consider Your Beneficiaries’ Needs
When you create a will with the help of your estate planning attorney, you’ll designate beneficiaries for your assets. You’ll also designate beneficiaries for your life insurance policy, retirement accounts, and similar accounts. It’s entirely your decision as to how to divide your estate among your family members, friends, or charitable organizations. However, when designating beneficiaries, you should consider their future needs and their spending habits. Many individuals earmark funds in a trust to cover specific expenditures, such as college tuition or special needs expenses.
Reduce Your Taxable Estate
Estate and income taxes can take a significant portion of the assets you allot to your beneficiaries. Your estate planning lawyer can help you develop efficient strategies to minimize tax obligations. You might also consider purchasing a life insurance policy that will cover the estate tax your heirs will owe.
Create An Inventory Of What You Own And What You Owe
Compile a comprehensive list of your assets and debts, including account numbers and contact information, as well as names and contact information for your important advisers. Keep the summary in a secure, central location – along with original copies of important documents and provide a copy of the summary for the executor of your will. This list could be a piece of paper or also a digital file kept in a secure location.
Develop A Contingency Plan
An estate plan allows you to control what would happen to your property and assets if you or your spouse passed away today. It also puts a documented plan in place so that if you became incapacitated, your family could carry on your affairs without having to go through court. This includes a strategy for providing income if you were to become disabled and covering potential expenses for care giving that may be needed at some point.
Provide For Children And Dependents
A primary goal for many estate plans is to protect and provide for loved ones and their future needs. Your estate plan should include provisions for any children, including naming a guardian for children under age 18 and providing for those from a previous marriage if you remarry, your assets may not automatically pass to them.
It also would specifically address the care and income of children or relatives with special needs that must be planned carefully to avoid jeopardizing eligibility for government benefits.
Protect Your Assets
A key component of estate planning involves protecting your assets for heirs and your charitable legacy by minimizing expenses, and covering estate taxes while still meeting your goals. If necessary, your estate plan would include specific strategies for transferring or disposing of unique assets like a family-owned business, real estate or investment property, or stock in a closely held business. Many people use permanent life insurance and trusts to protect assets while ensuring future goals can be met.
Document Your Wishes
If you want your assets distributed in a certain way to meet financial or personal goals, you need to have legal documentation to ensure those wishes are followed if you die or become incapacitated. This includes designating beneficiaries for your life insurance policies, retirement accounts and other assets that are in line with your goals. It also means ensuring that titles of material assets, such as automobiles and property, are named properly. Work with an attorney to be sure you have an updated will disposing of your assets, a living will reflecting your end-of-life wishes, as well as powers of attorney for health-care and financial matters.
To execute your estate plan, you must designate someone to act on your behalf if you are unable to do so as executor of your will, trustee for your assets, legal guardian for your dependents and/or personal representative or power of attorney if you became incapacitated. You need to be sure your fiduciaries are aware of and agree to their appointments, and that they know where to find your original estate planning documents.
Fiduciaries can be family members, personal friends or hired professionals such as bankers, attorneys or corporate trustees. Whether you are just starting out or have accumulated wealth over a lifetime, an up-to-date estate plan helps you minimize the impact of unexpected events on you and your family by preserving, protecting and managing your assets. A financial advisor can help you create a financial security plan to meet your goals, and provide tools and resources to build an estate plan that makes an impact well into the future.
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It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
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