The idea of planning your estate can be unnerving to say the least. Besides being an unwanted reminder of your mortality, it can be somewhat awkward to think about your “things” outliving you. There are, however, a few very good reasons to start the process of planning your estate:
- You get to decide to whom you wish for your assets to go . . . and you get to know that for once, your wishes are the law! In other words, if you don’t plan your estate, you’re wasting a tremendous opportunity to exercise power!
- Without estate planning, taxes might eat into your estate. The only thing worse than dying would be dying and then giving a significant portion of your wealth to taxes rather than to your loved ones.
- You can rest assured that you are not saddling your loved ones with the administrative nightmare that is the probate process. Believe me, your loved ones will be broken up enough over losing you. You don’t want to unnecessarily add to their grief, especially when you can take some very simple steps that will result in your estate being settled without court involvement.
The First Step–Taking Stock
The first step to planning your estate is to take stock of your assets. Assets are things with a value in excess of liabilities. Think of a house worth $200,000 that carries a $250,000 mortgage. That house is not an asset to its owner (and it won’t be an asset to the owner’s heirs, either). But a house worth $200,000 with a mortgage of only $50,000, on the other hand, is a significant asset. Other assets include investments (stocks and bonds), real estate, retirement accounts, insurance policies, and business interests. Be thorough when creating this list.
Who Do You Trust?
The next step in the process is to determine who you would trust to administer your estate. Who do you trust to follow your wishes and execute your last wishes? You’ll also want to decide who you would like to handle your business affairs and make medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you become legally incapacitated.
Letting the Heirs Know
At this stage you’ll also need to decide who you would like to inherit your property (by the way, an heir can also be the administrator). Once you’ve decided how you want your assets allocated, have a conversation with your loved ones! I can’t tell you how taboo this step seems for some people, but I highly encourage you to talk to your family about your bequests. If you fully outline your intentions and wishes to your family and friends, then you’ve significantly decreased the chances of a there being disagreements after you’re gone.
If your wealth and intentions are hidden until the day you die, on the other hand, then you’re setting up your estate for disaster . . . or at least a lot of bickering and hurt feelings. Take responsibility now for making sure that your wishes are fully expressed, both within your formal estate plan and to those with whom you have relationships.
We’ve Seen It All
We’ve pretty much seen it all when it comes to estate planning, so we can certainly shed light on any questions that you might have while putting a plan in place. Because we are here to serve, we are offering two free Family Wealth Planning Sessions™ this week. These sessions are normally priced at $750. Obviously, the two slots will fill up very fast, so you should call us and mention this article today!