Five estate planning basics you should understand before getting started
Many people are familiar with drafting a will to designate their wishes in the event that they pass away. However, the process of fulfilling a will can be long and expensive, and it is all a matter of public record.
To avoid all the hassles of a will, you may choose to establish an estate plan instead. An estate plan makes sure that your assets are transferred to your beneficiaries in the manner you wish and includes provisions for how your assets and medical care should be managed when you are still alive but unable to make decisions.
Establishing an estate plan requires some effort, but with the right strategy and a team of professionals by your side, you can establish a plan that works for you.
Here is how to get started:
1. Take inventory of everything
You need to take inventory of all your tangible and intangible assets so you can factor them into your estate plan.
Tangible assets may include:
- Personal possessions
Intangible assets may include:
- Bank accounts
- Brokerage accounts
- Insurance policies
- Retirement plans
- Business ownership
Furthermore, once you take inventory of your assets, you may want to consult professionals to estimate their value, such as hiring someone to appraise your home. This helps to officially verify the value of your possessions so you can distribute them equally or as you see fit.
2. Consider your family’s needs
Distributing assets isn’t the only thing you can leave behind for your beneficiaries. You should make sure you have a guardian named for your minor children, and you may even want to name a backup guardian should something happen to the primary one.
3. Review your directives and beneficiaries
An estate plan can include several legal directives, including:
- A living trust — A living trust allows you to designate how parts of your estate may be distributed while you are alive. You may appoint a trustee who can take over in the event that you become ill or incapacitated.
- Medical care — You may establish a medical care directive that includes your wishes for medical care preferences in the event you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions. This may include specific instructions or assigning an appointee to act on your behalf to make decisions.
- Power of attorney — You can designate someone with power of attorney over financial affairs and other circumstances when you are ill or incapacitated. For example, this could include giving someone the authority to pay bills and sign documents in your name.
4. Review your state’s taxes
Each state has its own stance on estate tax and inheritance tax laws. Usually, these affect only large estates, but you should take a moment to review your state’s estate and inheritance tax laws to make sure they are factored into your plan.
As of 2021, the state of Florida has neither an estate nor an inheritance tax.
5. Contact an estate planning professional
Establishing an estate plan requires a lot of planning and navigating the financial and legal landscapes. It is easy to make mistakes or overlook something that could render your wishes being unfulfilled.
To make sure your estate planning goes the way you want it, you should consult an estate planning professional who can help you get the aspects of your plan set up properly.
Talk to a ProVise CFP® professional about your estate plan
Do you want to make sure your loved ones are cared for and receive your assets as you wish in the event of your incapacitation or death? Establishing an estate plan is an effective strategy for making sure your wishes are fulfilled in the manner you designate.
At ProVise Management Group, our CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals can get to know you and your current financial circumstances, goals, risk tolerance and personal values to help you develop a plan that works for you. We can also create a written plan for you at a fiduciary standard of care. All our written plans come with an unconditional money-back guarantee. If you are unhappy with your written plan, you can return it to us, and we will refund 100% of the fee paid.
Are you ready to talk to a professional about your estate plan? Contact ProVise today to schedule a complimentary consultation.