Estate Planning Primer Part 1: Have a plan

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Whether you realize it or not, you need an estate plan. There is a perception that estate planning is for older folks with substantial assets and family members they want to leave their estate to. But, financial experts agree, that is just not the case.

Estate planning is for everyone, because when the time comes that you can no longer make important decisions for yourself about such things as the type of medical care you want, how to manage your finances or how you would like your assets to be distributed when you die, an estate plan can help those you love make those decisions on your behalf. Whether your estate planning is fairly straightforward or more complex, having the right professional help is important to ensure such critical decisions are made properly.

To help get you started, here are some guidelines to consider:

1.     Identify your goals.  Maybe you have young children and you want to ensure that they are cared for in the event of your death. Or, you want to be sure your family members are financially protected when you die or become incapacitated due to illness or an accident. Other goals may include reducing or eliminating estate taxes or making a plan for charitable giving. Whatever your goals may be, it is a good idea to sit down with a professional and outline them.

2.     Make a list of your assets.  This is very important to ensure that all of your assets are included and given to those you want to receive them. You will want to list any real estate, vehicles, investment accounts and personal property, such as jewelry and art that you own, among other things of value, both emotional and financial.

3.     Identify risks and protections to your assets.  If you are a business owner, you want to review how it is structured and be certain its worth is protected.

4.     Nursing homes and long term care. The cost of nursing home and other long term care is expensive and rarely covered by insurance plans. However, there are so-called Medicaid plans that may help you protect your assets. This is a matter you want to discuss with your financial planner as you prepare your estate plan.

5.     Identify loved ones you want to plan for.  Make a list – spouses, children, parents, friends – whomever you may want to protect and provide for when you’re gone. Consult with your financial advisor to ensure that any and all special considerations that might be needed, are included in your estate planning.

Of course, there are a wide range of matters that go into creating each individual’s estate plan. From considering if any of your beneficiaries may have special needs, to how you may want to plan for your pets, there are many factors involved.

The guidance of a professional can help you create the best estate plan to meet your goals and ensure your peace of mind. Helping clients with estate planning is at the core of our business. Please call to schedule an appointment with us. We can help take the stress and uncertainty out of your estate planning so that you will have peace of mind knowing your plan will be carried out to your wishes.

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