Estate planning is likely the most put off component of a comprehensive wealth management strategy. Of course, thinking about one’s own demise is not the most favorite thing to occupy one’s time, is it? That said, the process of completing a well organized and coordinated estate plan is one of the most selfless acts an individual or couple can do for the ones they care the most about whether that be family, special relationships or philanthropic organizations.
The advantages of having an up to date estate plan are many:
First, an estate plan that has been implemented carefully, will remove a tremendous burden for those responsible for the Estate Plan administration. Personally, I have witnessed on multiple occasions the angst that a client is thrown into when there were little estate planning and even less communication. A solid estate plan removes the need to “guess” what mom and dad wanted and if multiple parties are involved the number of arguments are also greatly reduced.
Second, the amount of wealth that is transferred can be maximized by reducing administrative, probate and estate and inheritance taxes. While reducing costs of distributing an estate, the estate plan should focus first and foremost on the people and/or organizations you care about. (More on that in the next paragraph.) There are a tremendous number of tools including trusts, ownership methodologies, and gifting strategies that can minimize the costs of settling an estate and maximizing the amount to those who should benefit.
Third, a solid estate plan will focus on the needs of an intended beneficiary of the estate. Several questions should be considered:
Does any beneficiary have any special needs that need to be considered? Ability to handle money, disabilities both mental and physical may point out the need for guardianships, trusts or other devices to protect the beneficiary.
- Should the beneficiaries share equally? Should a specific amount be given to some and not others?
- If there are minor children as beneficiaries, who should be the guardian or trustee?
- Are there any “special” circumstances that need to be considered?
Many of these questions can seem intimidating at first. A solid comprehensive fee-only financial plan prepared by a fee-only financial planner, done in coordination with estate planning counsel, can walk an individual/family through the process to accomplish what you want for the people you care about. Estate plans, while saving cost is important, need to focus on not leaving a mess for those you want to help. Estate Planning is truly a selfless act.