No matter what stage you are in life, if you have assets and people in your life you want to leave those assets to, you can take proactive steps to protect them and secure your legacy. While estate planning might seem like a distant concern for some, it is never too early to think about how best to do this.
Understanding estate planning
Estate planning involves making important decisions about your future, your family and the legacy you want to leave behind. It also involves deciding about the care you want for yourself at the end of your life.
While part of this process is deciding how and to whom you will distribute your assets after your passing, estate planning is about so much more than this. It is a process that goes beyond financial considerations and extends to identifying what is rightfully yours and ensuring you protect your estate.
There are many ways to protect your heirs, and establishing a revocable trust is one of the most popular ways of doing this. It not only allows you to have full control of your assets during your lifetime, which means you can make changes if necessary, but it also helps you avoid the probate process.
Why a trust?
If you have specific conditions, timelines and people you want to leave your assets to, a trust is an ideal vehicle for passing on your assets in an efficient and expedient manner. Trusts provide greater flexibility and privacy, which are important to many people and, in part, why they are so popular.
Heirs and beneficiaries
Ensure you designate your beneficiaries clearly. For assets like life insurance policies, retirement accounts and bank accounts, designate beneficiaries.
The assets will go directly to them, which is a way of protecting your assets and ensuring they end up in the right hands. For heirs, you can pass assets to them privately and efficiently through a trust.
Make sure you designate guardians if you have minor children or someone under your care who is disabled and will require long-term care. Choose a person or people you trust, share values and principles with, and do not forget to speak with them about this and ensure they are on board.
Keep documents in order
One of the most unfortunate situations that can happen to an heir or beneficiary is facing a complete mess after the passing of their loved one.
Not only are they grieving their loss but having to go through essential documents, including deeds and financial account information, including accounts they do not know you have, can be overwhelming and frustrating, not to mention time-consuming.
By keeping your affairs in order, you can make it easier for your heirs and beneficiaries to grieve for you without having to struggle with piles of paperwork to organize.
Have clear instructions
Leave explicit instructions about what you want to do with what and to whom you want to leave what, as well as what your wishes are for yourself, not only after death but in the event of incapacity. Most people think of estate planning as a matter to deal with after death, but that is not so.
Estate planning can include your wishes for what you want in your later years, including the type of care you want to receive, your medical decisions, who you want to manage your affairs if you cannot and anyone you may not want to manage your affairs.