The ultimate estate plan, to me, is truly making sure that you have planned for the inevitable future that we are hesitant to discuss, but will all have to face. For this reason, we usually say estate planning isn’t necessarily for you; it’s more for your loved ones.
Estate planning shouldn’t be complicated. Basically, it depends on your financial and family situation. Once you have a child, this process becomes essential. You have to think about if something were to happen to you, what would happen to your child? Again, you aren’t thinking about yourself when you begin the planning process, you are thinking about those closest to you.
Appropriate Time and Actions
We have seen unexpected deaths happen to people in their 30s or 40s, which tells us it is never too early to plan. Not necessarily planning for the inevitable future down the road, but planning for tomorrow. We can never know what tomorrow may bring.
Everything starts with sitting down and having a conversation with a Hefren-Tillotson advisor like myself and creating a MASTERPLAN®, the roadmap to your financial success. MASTERPLAN® is the document to help in your estate planning process and understanding where you are, where you want to go, and how you want to get there.
Obviously, more people will need to be involved in the process. As financial advisors, we participate from the financial aspects of things. Our job is to develop a team that will work together to create that estate plan for you. That includes finding an attorney that you can work with to create your legal documents, which is something we ask our clients on an ongoing basis, “Have you updated your legal documents?” If they are not up to date, they are probably not doing all that you want them to.
Can You Be All Things to All People?
We work with attorneys to create a successful team in the estate planning process. We have been asked why we don’t have our own attorney on staff. At Hefren-Tillotson, we stick with what we’re good at, and stay in our lane. We’re great at the financial aspect of it. We do all need to be on the same page, and work together to ensure success.
The two things that people need to get together are Wills and Trusts. The Will tells who is going to inherit your property and names a guardian to take care of your young children if something were to happen to you and/or your wife. Having all of that in the Will is very important because it’s not all about you anymore, so to speak.
You can consider putting a Trust in place to hold your property. The trust is going to protect your survivors from going through the probate process.
From there, you need to look at your health care power of attorney. Say you become incapacitated, someone will need to make those health care decisions for you. Equally important is your financial power of attorney, the person we are going to work with if something were to happen to you.
Deciding on a Will or a Trust is truly up to the individual as to what they want happen to their property. And that’s why the conversation is really important to have with an attorney, because they can distinguish for you what is most appropriate – a Will or a Trust.
One part of the conversation that we must have with our clients is their beneficiary designations. Your beneficiary designation on qualified accounts, such as your 401(k) and IRA, are going to supersede anything in your Will. A lot of times, people will say, “My Will is up to date and I am good to go.” Well … sorry. Not always.
But if your beneficiary is an ex-spouse, or an ex-boyfriend, girlfriend or family member that you are no longer in touch with, and their name is on there, that’s who the money goes to. That’s why in annual reviews, we review the beneficiaries – to make sure they are up to date.
Understanding your federal estate taxes is important. Around 99.7 percent of taxpayers will not owe estate taxes. The taxable estate is worth $11.7 million per individual or $23.4 million per couple. Understandably, most people are not facing this issue because they don’t have this amount of assets.
If you own a business, you want to protect it. Make sure you know if there is going to be a buyout agreement, or is there going to be a succession plan in place?
The last and most important thing is to make sure you are storing your documents in a place where someone like your attorney or your executor will know where they are. Creating a binder or a document that has all the information in it for one person is going to be really beneficial down the road to ensure your estate is carried out properly.
Contact me today if you would like more information. We can help you plan for your loved ones by starting the process with a MASTERPLAN®, an ideal way to help guide you through your planning for now and for the future, and make sure your estate is in correct order.