Regardless of your age or the value of your assets, an estate plan is an important step in ensuring that your wishes are carried out. Estate planning is a process that involves many options, and understanding which ones you need can take some time. Estate planning includes your property, your healthcare wishes, guardianship of minor children, even your funeral preferences. It can also include business succession planning, tax planning, and more.
If you’re married, it’s important to discuss these plans with your spouse. Depending on the ages of your children, you may want to have a family discussion about your plan. Adult children, especially if you name them as executors or give them Power of Attorney, should be told about your wishes.
Your estate includes:
- Your bank accounts, stocks, annuities, and other securities
- Your real estate holdings
- Your personal property (jewelry, collectibles, art, automobiles, etc.)
- Life insurance policies
Estate planning can help you:
- Draft a will.
- Establish guardianship for minor children.
- Identify the individuals or charities that are to receive your property.
- Plan taxes so that any transfers of property happen without needless legal hurdles.
- Avoid probate by using revocable trusts and “payable on death” bank accounts.
- Identify a person to have your Power of Attorney in case you become incapable of managing your financial affairs.
- Identify a person to have your healthcare Power of Attorney, whom you trust to make decisions about your care if you become incapacitated.
- Create a living will, a document that states the kind of medical care you want (or don’t want) in case of a terminal illness or injury that leaves you unable to speak for yourself.
- Outline your preference for funeral arrangements and how they are to be paid for.
There are attorneys who specialize in estate planning, but not everyone needs an attorney for all facets of an estate plan. For example, forms for a living will, Healthcare Power of Attorney, and legal Power of Attorney are available online and often from your bank. All you need to do is fill out the forms and have your signature notarized. Most banks have a notary on staff. Make a copy of the forms and give them to the person you have named, and keep the original in a safe place with other estate planning documentation. An attorney who specializes in trusts, wills and probate should be consulted for more complex planning.
Smart Tips for Estate Planning:
Learn if Setting Up a Trust should be part of your estate planning.
Western & Southern Life does not provide tax or legal advice. Please contact your tax or legal advisor regarding your situation.