Importance of Estate Planning

Estate Planning is one of the most important steps that any person can take to ensure that their property and their health care wishes are honored, and that loved ones are provided for in their absence (either death or incapacitation).

Your Estate can consist of some or all of the following: real estate, bank and investment accounts, life insurance policies, and personal property such as automobiles, jewelry, and artwork. It’s important to have a basic estate plan in place, regardless of your age or net worth, and the plan can be very simple, but without one, you or your family are subject to the laws of your State. A good plan would identify your family members and other loved ones that you wish to receive your assets at your death; name your Executor, the individual or institution that you wish to provide authority to make sure that the terms of your Will are carried out; potentially minimize the amount of taxes that will need to be paid at death; ensure that your assets will pass to others in a timely manner and with as little costs as possible, as well as naming someone to manage your health care and financial decisions should you become incapacitated for any reason. A basic plan includes a Will, Power of Attorney documents both for financial decisions and for medical decisions (sometimes referred to as Health Care Proxy), and a Living Will or Advanced Directive. In some cases, it might make sense for additional planning to create a Revocable Living Trust now, or creation of a Trust at your death.

Finally, it’s no secret that estate planning and conversations about “post-death” planning are not fun topics to discuss, but we encourage you to have these discussions with your spouse and/or your children. Keep documents and records in a safe place, and let a family member know where to locate them should there be an untimely death or illness. Additionally, take the time to write down account numbers for each account in your name, as well as real property or partnership interests. Write down the names and numbers of your trusted financial partners: CPA, Attorney and Financial Advisor, and update all accordingly. This will help ensure a smooth transition in addition to providing support for a grieving spouse or family members.