Be Prepared: Estate planning tips
Planning for the inevitable can be challenging. Death and money are difficult topics for anyone.
Estate planning, however, provides benefits. You can make sure that your wishes are clearly understood. You have peace of mind, knowing your assets and responsibilities will be managed. You know your family won’t be burdened by confusion and debate.
How should you begin the process? The first step is communication. Start with a family dialogue. For example, adult children may want to ensure that their parents have their own plans.
Also, if you are asking any beneficiaries or survivors to take on any estate management or other responsibilities, make sure they are willing and able.
It is important to know that your own children understand your plans and wishes. If you have minor children, consider appointing a guardian. Again, communication – conversations within the group – will help you clearly assess needs.
There are also tax implications. Early estate planning allows your family to understand how to manage the sometimes-complex tax regulations inherent in estate management. Did you know, for example, that the estate, gift and generation skipping transfer (GST) tax’s $5,000,000 exemption has been permanently extended (indexed for inflation, $5.34M in tax year 2014)?
Whether you decide to consult an attorney or advisor, it’s good to review your assets, holdings, accounts, property, etc., beforehand. Ask yourself some grounding questions before asking them of others.
- Who would you like (or not like) to receive your property?
- Do you want to leave anything to any organizations (charity, school or other)?
- Who would you like to serve as your executor, your trustee (if applicable) and/or guardian to care for any minor children?
- Do you intend to create a living will and a durable health care power of attorney? Will you assign other powers of attorney, such as for your finances?
- Who would you choose as alternate executor, trustee, guardian or power of attorney if your first choice is not available?
- Will you leave instructions for funeral arrangements, and/or donation of your organs or body to science?
Once you are ready to initiate these conversations, choose positive environments and circumstances. When families wait until a crisis, it can be too late. Clear communication is key. Emphasize the importance and benefits of this conversation to everyone affected.