Help protect your family’s future with an estate plan
Home ownership is an exciting dream for a lot of people. While estate planning may not be a dream, like home ownership, it is something very valuable for you and your family.
Surprisingly, there are many parallels between home ownership and the estate-planning process – beyond the fact they’re both major milestones for individuals and their families. With that in mind, we see three common steps with the estate-planning process.
Build a strong foundation
Putting a set of core estate-planning documents in place is essential to protecting yourself and your family. So, what does a strong foundation look like? It’s more than just a will or a will and trust. A strong foundation encompasses putting multiple documents in place that go beyond how your assets will pass and naming who would care for your children. It also addresses who can make medical and financial decisions on your behalf, if needed, incapacity planning, and it also defines health care directives.
You’ll need to work with your attorney to ensure you have a combination of a will or a will and trust, a medical and financial power of attorney, and medical directives/living will. This core set of documents can define:
If you are a business owner, you will also want to discuss what additional documents are appropriate based on your individual situation. As each state is different, work with a qualified estate-planning attorney to draft and execute those documents most appropriate for your situation.
Customize your plan and incorporate your specific wishes
When you’re establishing your documents, there are a number of decisions related to how you can customize your estate plan for your family’s specific situation. A well-thought-out estate plan incorporates your specific wishes and directives based on the known facts.
Who do you want to name in your documents as your executor or trustee? Who would you like to act on your behalf if you are no longer able to do so (e.g., make medical decisions)?
Naming individuals in your documents is an important consideration as well as a serious responsibility. Carefully consider you who appoint in each role and discuss their responsibilities to ensure they are comfortable with what you are asking them to do. Consider these issues:
Be sure to discuss these responsibilities with those you’ve named in your documents. It’s equally vital to share the location of these documents – and any relevant passwords – so the paperwork is accessible. Providing insight into why these individuals were selected and what you are hoping to achieve will allow them an opportunity to ask questions and clarify your wishes.
When leaving assets to heirs, there are a number of considerations as each situation is unique.
Do you want to leave assets outright or in trust?
One consideration when passing assets to heirs is how the assets will be distributed. You’ll need to think about not only the specific dollar amount and who receives what, but also if you want to pass the assets outright with no restrictions or you would like to place the assets in a trust. A trust will allow a greater amount of flexibility and may also be needed to execute some tax-planning strategies.
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