WHAT IS AN ESTATE PLAN?
At a basic level, an estate is the collection of everything an individual owns, including cash, investments, real estate, business interests, legal rights and any other personal property, less any liabilities associated with those assets.
An estate plan is a collection of legal documents that detail an individual’s intentions for their assets, their dependents, and themselves and allows them to prepare for two general situations
1. If they become incapacitated
2. If they should pass away
There are 5 primary estate planning documents:
|1. Will or pour-over will||A legal document in which an individual details their intentions as to how their assets and affairs should be handled after their passing. For example, a typical Will would list who should be guardian of their children, and which heirs should be given certain specified assets.|
|2. Advance medical directive or living will||A legal document in which an individual specifies what actions should be taken and not taken for their health if they are no longer able to make medical decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity.|
|3. Revocable living trust||A legal entity created by an individual to hold and manage their assets while they are alive, and to specify how assets are to be distributed after their passing. Being “revocable” means that it can be changed or terminated at any time while still alive.|
|4. Healthcare power of attorney||A legal document in which an individual grants authority to another individual to make medical decisions on their behalf in the event they are no longer able to make decisions on their own due to incapacity or illness.|
|5. Durable or financial power of attorney||A legal document in which an individual grants authority to another individual to make financial decisions on their behalf|
WHO NEEDS AN ESTATE PLAN?
Many people think that an estate plan is only for the very wealthy, however this is not the case. For example, anyone over the age of majority (18 in most states) should have at least two estate planning documents, a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney. Further, if an individual owns anything of value, or if they have dependents who will need to be cared for should they pass unexpectedly, they should have a complete estate plan.
WHAT WE DO
We believe an estate plan is an essential element of a comprehensive financial plan. While we do not perform legal services, we work with clients to help articulate their wishes, identify areas of risk or concern and coordinate with attorneys to design and implement an estate plan that accomplishes the goals and integrates with their overall financial plan.
Estate plans should be reviewed periodically and updated appropriately as a client’s circumstances change. In working with our clients, we monitor and discuss these changes and then work with attorneys to implement the appropriate updates.
We can work with a client’s existing law firm and CPAs or utilize our industry relationships to provide the legal and accounting support if required.
SOME COMMON ESTATE PLANNING GOALS
• Provide for a surviving spouse and children
• Designate a guardian for children
• Education funding for children and grandchildren
• Avoid probate and maintain privacy
• Control the distribution of assets to children
• Handle the complexities of new family relationships (i.e. second marriage, divorce)
• Succession planning for a family business
• Minimize income and estate taxes
• Protect assets from creditors and others
• Fund estate tax liability, in cases where the remaining assets are illiquid