Transferring the management of assets if and when you are unable to manage them yourself because of disability or death is the basic reason for an estate plan. This goes for people with $100 or $100 million. You already have an estate plan, because every state has laws addressing how assets are managed and who will inherit your assets, known as the Laws of Intestacy, if you do not have a will created. However, the estate plan created by your state’s laws might not be what you want, explains the article “Auditing Your Estate Plan” appearing in Forbes.
To take more control over your estate, you’ll want to have an estate planning attorney create an estate plan drafted to achieve your goals. To do so, you’ll need to start by defining your estate planning objectives. What are you trying to accomplish?
- Provide for a surviving spouse or family
- Save on income taxes now
- Save on estate and gift taxes later
- Provide for children later
- Distribute assets to a charity
- Provide for retirement income, and/or
- Protect assets and beneficiaries from creditors.
Reviewing your estate plan, especially if you haven’t done so in more than three years, will show whether any of your goals have changed. You’ll need to review wills, trusts, powers of attorney, healthcare directives, beneficiary designation forms, insurance policies and joint accounts.
Preparing for incapacity is just as important as distributing assets. Who should manage your medical, financial and legal affairs? Designating someone, or more than one person, to act on your behalf, and making your wishes clear and enforceable with estate planning documents, will give you and your loved ones security. You are ready, and they will be ready to help you, if something unexpected occurs. Similarly, if you care for any minor children, you need to nominate who will care for those minor if you are gone or incapacitated.
There are a few more steps, if your estate plan needs to be revised:
- Make the plan, based on your goals,
- Engage the people, including an estate planning attorney, to execute the plan,
- Have a will updated and executed, along with other necessary documents,
- Re-title assets as needed and complete any changes to beneficiary designations, and
- Schedule a review of your estate plan by an estate planning attorney every few years and more frequently if there are large changes to tax laws or your life circumstances.
Reference: Forbes (Sep. 23, 2020) “Auditing Your Estate Plan”