What Is Estate Planning?
If you have possessions, you have an estate. The disposition of your possessions when you die is called estate settlement. Deciding in advance how this will be done is known as estate planning. Yet, in the course of our busy lives, proper estate planning is often neglected due to a variety of reasons.
Who Needs an Estate Plan?
Many people assume that estate planning is only for the very rich, but actually, the more modest your estate, the greater the need to arrange for its careful handling and disposition. There is also a tendency to overlook the extent of what you own. Your possessions include assets, such as equity in a home, personal and group life insurance, deferred employee benefits, as well as the securities and investments you have.
Setting Estate Planning Goals
Good estate planning involves a generous measure of financial management during your lifetime. If you're married, you and your spouse may want to decide how your assets will be administered for the maximum advantage of the survivor, should one of you die. If you have children (or grandchildren), what are their circumstances and needs? What will happen to any business in which you have a share? Is there a charitable organization you favor that could use help from your estate? These are all questions you will have to ask yourself and set forth a plan for.
The Tools of Estate Planning
The tools of estate planning are written documents that precisely indicate your intentions and the powers to accomplish those intentions. They include:
- A will—This is the basic element in every estate plan and ensures that nothing is overlooked and that assets pass on to those intended to receive them.
- Trusts—These provide a unique arrangement for the management of assets for the benefit or either the person creating the trust or others. Trust provisions may be contained in a will or in a separate agreement.
- Life Insurance policies—These provide for the payment of their face amount on the death of the insured to the beneficiary named and may include: an individual, the insured's estate, a trustee under a will or trust agreement, or a charitable institution.
- Buy-sell agreement—An owner of a business interest may enter into an agreement with his or her business partners, which will set forth the terms of sale of his or her interest in that business upon death.
- Deferred employee benefits—Pensions, group insurance, stock options, etc., will have written provisions for the disposition of the benefits upon disability, retirement or death or the employee.
How to begin
Begin by compiling an inventory of personal data. This included the current value of all your assets, how they are owned, your liabilities, and names and addresses of intended estate beneficiaries. This is also the time to indicate which charities are to receive a bequest in your will.
With a proper plan in place your loved ones won't be forced to pick up the pieces of a confused financial puzzle because you'll have prepared beforehand.
We would be glad to assist you, your tax consultant or lawyer in exploring the living trust option further. Please call us today at:
1.800.992.2383 Ext. 10