As an essential element of your overall wealth management and financial strategy, estate planning ensures that you have a plan in place to distribute your home, assets and possessions. This not only protects your family, but it allows them the freedom to understand and honor your wishes after you are gone.
Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging for the disposal of an estate during your lifetime. It attempts to eliminate uncertainties and maximize the value of the estate by streamlining the transfer of assets to your beneficiaries, potentially reducing estate taxes and other related expenses.
In a nutshell, an estate plan encompasses the accumulation, conservation and distribution of an estate. Done well, it will enhance and maintain the financial security of the next generation.
Benefits of Estate Planning
- Trust management for your loved ones
- Clear directive on division of property
- Direct charitable donations
- Reduced administrative costs for your estate
- Reduce or eliminate estate and gift taxes
- Protect your estate from mismanagement, creditor claims or claims from those outside of the family
Nearly everyone has an “estate” for purposes of estate planning. Estates include personal residences, insurance, retirement accounts, investments, personal property, and household possessions. There are a number of different strategies and legal documents that are used when building an estate plan. Here are a few of the most common documents that may be included in a comprehensive plan. We’ve added brief definitions for each of these documents below.
- Last Will and Testament
- Revocable Trust
- Pour-Over Will
- Financial Power of Attorney
- Health Care Power of Attorney
- Living Will
A Last Will and Testament gives instructions to the probate court of your final wishes, including who is in charge of implementing them, how the property will be distributed and who will care for any children under the age of 18. You should know that all documents filed with the probate court will be a matter of public record, and the probate process tends to be time-consuming and expensive.
A Revocable Trust will accomplish everything that your will does but avoids the expense and time associated with the probate court process, which can be a significant advantage. A revocable trust simply means that all of the assets within the trust remain in your possession and control while you’re alive. At any time, you may amend or even revoke your revocable trust.
Adding a Pour-Over Will to your estate planning mix is advisable if you have a revocable trust. The pour-over will is a type of safety net to ensure that any assets which were not included in your revocable trust will “pour-over” into the trust upon your death. Essentially the document says that any remaining assets will transfer to the trust upon death.
Your estate plan should also typically include both a Financial Power of Attorney and a Health Care Power of Attorney. A Financial Power of Attorney is the person you’ll designate to execute your financial wishes, including taxes, bills and other financial decisions when you are no longer able to do so. A Medical Power of Attorney is the person you designate to make legal medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so.
A Living Will tells your medical team and family the extent to which you wish to receive end-of-life care in the event you’re unable to articulate your own wishes. Another important component to include is a HIPAA release, which allows your physician to discuss your medical matter with your Medical Power of Attorney.
Estate planning is a necessary part of your financial plan, and it is important to find the right estate planning team to help you implement and carry out your plan. In almost all cases, a trust will minimize your estate transfer costs and can potentially trim taxes. Depending on the size and terms of your trust, this can range from simple administration and a wind-up of your affairs to longer-term on-going administration for future generations.
Either way, it’s important to protect your estate from legal attacks, potential family mismanagement, and related legal disputes. Trusts can greatly minimize these risks. At Live Oak Private Wealth we have an experienced team of professionals who would be happy to help you and your family setup a plan that is appropriate for you.