Throughout the course of your working life, you've built an estate consisting of physical assets, financial reserves, and investment portfolios. Your wealth has supported you and your family for years, but what becomes of those assets when you pass away? With a good estate plan in place, you ensure that your wealth and assets are handled responsibly during your Golden Years and in the months following your death. Below, you'll find a helpful checklist to guide you through the creation of an estate plan.
Find a Qualified Estate Planning Professional
It would be wise to work with a qualified estate planner as you begin the process of creating a plan for your assets. A good professional will listen to you, take into account your idea for the distribution of your assets, and help you craft a plan that works best for your family and you.
Write a Will and Trust
A will is the simplest document you can create to ensure your assets are divided according to your wishes after you pass. Everyone should have a will, regardless of your age or total wealth. A trust is a more complex legal document that meets the additional needs of those with vast wealth, investment portfolios, and multiple physical assets. A trust allows you to place real estate, for example, in the name of the trust to shield those assets from taxes and probate. A trustee can be appointed to oversee your trust and facilitate the division of assets following your death, or the death of your spouse.
Select a Financial Power of Attorney
This is a crucial step that can ensure your money supports you later in life, and shields your assets from inappropriate distribution following your death. The individual you give power of attorney to needs to be trustworthy and should, ideally, have a good understanding of finance and investing. This person will handle all of your financial affairs, watching after your investment portfolio while you're alive to ensure it properly supports you, and will continue in that roll following your death to ensure your wealth supports your family after you pass.
Understand the Impact of Estate Taxes
Your wealth can end up benefiting Uncle Sam more than your family members if you don't understand the ins and outs of estate taxes. AARP notes that couples can give away up to $10 million without paying a federal gift tax. Additionally, NOLO states that as of 2015, the federal government can only impose estate taxes if your total wealth exceeds $5.43 million. If you want to avoid these estate taxes, start transferring your wealth and assets to dependents before your passing to avoid your full estate being hit with federal taxes at your death.
Cover Funeral Expenses
Funeral expenses shouldn't be something for your grieving family members to struggle with. If you set up a payable-upon-death account at your bank, you can deposit funds into an account over time that will be paid out to cover your funeral and related expenses.
Protect Your Business
If you're an entrepreneur, it is important to the longevity of your company and the financial security of your employees that you develop a plan to protect your business. You'll need to establish a succession plan in the event you are the sole owner. If you own the company with multiple partners, a buyout agreement should be in place to make it easier for your other partners to take control of the business without interruptions or costly legal battles.
Store Your Documents Responsibly
Last but not least, store all of your documents in a responsible manner. Keep physical copies of your will, trust, and business succession plans in a fireproof box. It is also wise to store digital copies of all your forms on a computer system or secure cloud network.
Following these guidelines, you'll be able to establish a solid estate plan that protects your financial assets and wealth after your passing. An estate plan ensures that your wishes are followed and that your loved ones receive the support you intended.
These are the views of Social Advisors, and not necessarily those of the named representative, Broker dealer or Investment Advisor, and should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named representative nor the named Broker dealer or Investment Advisor gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please consult your financial advisor for further information.
Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. Richard L Farrar is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Securities offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (Member SICP). Investment advisory services offered through Sagemark Consulting, a division of Lincoln Financial Advisors, a registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. CRN-1211620-060215