Yes, I know, no one likes talking about death or horrific accidents that could leave us incapacitated. (I know, a bit morbid, sorry). But given how 2020 has gone, there has never been a more ever present realization for the need for estate planning.
Let’s preface with the fact that I am no attorney, nor do I plan to give you estate planning advice, you should seek an estate planning attorney for such. But estate planning is an important part of the financial planning process. And it’s an important part of my role to my clients that we make sure their estate planning needs are discussed and covered.
Estate planning ultimately encompasses the legacy you want to leave behind for your family, loved ones and even specific charities, when you depart this earth. What good is a financial plan; where we identify our values and live our most meaningful lives, if our assets end up somewhere we didn’t want them? Estate planning is also important in avoiding probate (a headache and time consuming venture) and minimizing estate tax costs.
No matter what age or stage of life you are in, Estate Planning is extremely important - and it doesn’t need to be complex. (Make sure to download the FREE checklist at the bottom of this page!)
Below are key estate planning things to keep in mind, depending on where you are in your life journey.
A Growing Family
When you’re in your 30s and 40s, and you have a growing family, your number one priority should be making sure they are taken care of if something were to ultimately happen to you. That may mean designating a guardian of your minor children upon your passing or making sure your assets have the proper beneficiaries to make sure they are left to the appropriate family members.
What an estate planning checklist looks like for a growing family:
- A Will: especially if you have minor children, a will is going to appoint the guardian of your children, should something happen to you as well as provide instruction on how to distribute assets.
- Naming Beneficiaries: this could be as simple as adding ‘Payable on Death’ to your bank accounts to your designated beneficiary. Doing so will avoid the probate process, which can be drawn out and costly.
- Durable Power of Attorney: arguably one of the most important estate planning documents, this grants a trusted individual the right to make health care or financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
- Living Will: provides instruction on your wishes relating to medical care and life support.
Heading for Retirement
As you approach retirement, or maybe you are already there, estate planning becomes more common for individuals. As we age and consider our longevity, estate planning becomes a topic of conversation. Making sure all of your affairs are in order and deciding how you want to make an impact with your legacy becomes a top priority. A lot of the estate planning items covered previously still apply:
- Account designations
- Power of Attorney
- Living Will
A will is still important, while you may no longer have minor children, you still want to make sure all of your valuables are covered that may not be included in a trust. Think: jewelry, art or other remaining assets.
Additional Estate Planning Items to Consider:
- Living Trust: a lot of pre-retirees and retirees consider living trusts, as it is one of the main ways to avoid probate. This holds your assets until death, and you maintain control of it as the trustee. A living trust is also helpful when many beneficiaries are involved or one has a large estate.
- Covering Funeral Costs: this is often handled through having appropriate insurance coverage.
Last but not least, make sure your legal documents, statements, etc. are in a convenient or accessible place for your heirs or successor trustees. Handling the death of a loved one is an experience I wish no one would have to go through, but we all know that’s the cycle of life. The best thing we can do is make sure we have things organized for the ones we leave behind.
If you have questions or would like recommendations of a few trusted estate planners, don’t hesitate to reach out!
Download Your FREE Estate Planning Checklist!
Who is Carolyn?
Carolyn Rowland is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ passionate about empowering individuals to take control of their financial landscape. “We often tend to place our own priorities on the back burner for others, resulting in sacrifices we don’t often realize we’re making.”Carolyn believes in taking a values-based approach to financial planning. “Together we’ll define what matters most to you, what you want your life to look like, and develop a plan that fits your lifestyle.”
Carolyn Rowland is in the Milwaukee WI, area.