Preparing for your death is a difficult issue to discuss, but it is also a crucial part of any comprehensive financial plan.
Without proper planning, a person’s death can create significant hardships on the people for which the estate was created. 
For an estate to be passed on to the heirs, there could be settlement costs, such as probate fees and estate taxes.   When estate taxes are substantial, assets may have to be liquidated in order to pay them, reducing the amount inherited by family members and charities.  The transfer of assets can be delayed by probate proceedings if the state is determining how your assets are to be distributed.  Your true intentions for your assets are at risk to not be followed without the proper documents in place.
By working with our advisors and your attorney, as a team, you will develop an estate plan that can eliminate many of these problems and will assure that the settlement of your estate will be a process that will minimize any additional stress placed on your loved ones.
Your estate planning should accomplish all of the following tasks if applicable to your situation:
  • Ensure that your financial obligations are handled by the appropriate people if you become unable to manage your own affairs.
  • Create your specific instructions if you are unable to make decisions regarding your healthcare or life-sustaining treatments.
  • Your intentions are clearly communicated to your executors, successor trustees, and your family and heirs.
  • Secure sufficient capital to meet immediate liquidity needs for funerals and settlement costs
  • If needed, provide income and financial security to surviving spouse and minor children.
  • Facilitate the timely distribution of assets
  • Minimize estate taxes and expenses through proper titling of accounts, lifetime gifting, and use of trusts
  • Establish a review or monitoring process for all of your documents to keep up with changing laws & requirements
  • Produce a charitable legacy in your name or your family's name with bequests of specific assets or through the creation of a trust that will provide a recurring stream of income.
Larger estates or those that contain non-liquid assets, such as real estate, may require the guidance of a qualified attorney to structure the most appropriate planning arrangement. An estate planning attorney can also arrange your estate in a way that can eliminate any potential friction among heirs. If the estate is of a significant size that might subject it to estate taxes, then an attorney can suggest arrangements that will minimize them.
Estate tax laws change periodically as do the individual’s financial situation which can make an estate plan obsolete if it is not reviewed periodically. A good estate planning team, consisting of an attorney, a trust administrator, a life insurance agent and an investment advisor representative, can provide the necessary guidance to ensure that your estate plan is current and operable.
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