Contrary to what you might think, you actually have an estate. As a matter of fact, almost everybody has an estate. Your estate includes everything you can call your own – your home, vehicle, real estate, bank accounts, life insurance, investments, and even your personal possessions. Whether or not you consider your holdings large or small, you have an estate and, unfortunately, you cannot take it with you after you leave this earth.
When that inevitable time comes, you’ll want to take charge of how your estate is handled. You will want to make sure your possessions are received by the people and organizations you care the most for. In order to make sure your final wishes are seen through, it is necessary that you provide instructions stating exactly what is to be given and who will be the recipients. When done correctly and in good time, you will maximize your estate by minimizing taxes, legal fees, and court costs.
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is simply making a plan on how to divide your estate. Sounds simple, right? It is, until it isn’t. A good estate plan should focus on not only finding your assets a good home but finding peace of mind for you and those you care about.
Your estate plan should offer instructions that pass on your possessions, as well as your principles. Should you have instructions that are guided by your religion, education, or personal philosophy, you will want to include them, too.
Other items you might want to include involve instructions for care should you become disabled, naming a guardian for any minor children, setting up a trust for future generations, insurance policies, preemptive payments towards any legal fees, and more. HeartStone Advisors will provide options and guidance for the many situations you may face in your later years.
Be advised that estate planning is an ongoing process and should be updated as your family and financial conditions change. HeartStone works with you on a continual basis to ensure your estate plan aligns with your evolving goals.
Why Is Estate Planning Important?
Unfortunately, not enough people plan for the inevitable. As people, we tend to put off estate planning for several reasons – we believe we don’t have enough money, or we think we have little value to leave behind to others. Sometimes, we just get busy; other times we just don’t know how. Without finding the right resources to turn to, we end up leaving our loved ones to pick up the pieces.
Even though you might not have a plan, you can believe that the state has one. And, odds are, you are not going to want it. Should you become disabled or deceased, unless you have documentation assigning how you want your life and assets to be handled, the court can take control. Once the state gets involved, the process to regain control by you or your family can be a long and expensive one.
After you pass, your assets will be distributed along the lines of the probate laws that govern your state. Depending on the state, your spouse and children will each receive a share – and sometimes, just your spouse. If you have minor children with no appointed guardian, the court can even be in control of their inheritance. There is far too much at stake to not properly plan your estate.
A Will Or Living Trust
An estate plan begins with a will or living trust. A will delivers your instructions, but it does not necessarily circumvent probate. Any assets in your name or supervised by your will must go through your state’s probate process before they can be distributed to your beneficiaries. If you own assets in any other states, the process will probably face multiple probates. The probate procedure differs largely from state to state, but it can become expensive with fees and court costs. It can also take anywhere from several months to two years or more to conclude. There are some exceptions, but it is best to dictate to whom and to where your assets go.
Not all of your assets will go through probate. Jointly-owned property and assets that let you name a beneficiary – like 401(k)s, life insurance, annuities, etc. – are not governed by your will and typically will transfer to the co-owner or beneficiary without probate. However, there are many issues with joint ownership, and avoiding probate is not always guaranteed. For instance, if a lawful beneficiary is not designated, the assets will have to go through the probate process. If you designate a minor as a beneficiary, the court will most likely order a guardianship until the child comes of age.
Because of these challenges, a living trust is recommended by many professionals. It can avoid probate at death – even in multiple states – and avert court jurisdiction, saving grief among your loved ones and expediting asset transfer to your heirs. A living trust is valid in every state, can be amended by you at any given time, and showcases your love, principles, and final wishes to your family.
Different than a will, a living trust does not have to end with your death. You can appoint a trustee to manage your assets and disperse them how and when you see fit. Should you have a loved one with special needs, your trust can protect your assets from unwanted people and negligent spending.
Who Can Benefit From Estate Planning Services?
You and each person you care for can benefit from properly planning your estate. Planning your estate accordingly will assist in the organization of your records, titles, and beneficiary designations. All of your financial records, titles, and insurance policies will be in one location, saving your family time and effort when it comes to tracking down the necessary information and putting it into action.
It’s easy to not give the proper attention to particular wording in the titles, leaving unclear distinctions for your beneficiaries. Although your intentions are pure, unintended consequences can arise from innocent errors, creating unseen and difficult problems for your heirs.
By planning your estate accordingly with the right firm, you can rest easy knowing your loved ones will be in good hands after you pass.
Get Started With Your Estate Planning Today
The biggest benefit of an estate plan is peace of mind. Nobody likes to think about death, but taking a little time now to establish a plan can greatly reduce the stress left to your family in the future.
At HeartStone, we want to help you plan for this future. With over 60 years of financial experience, we possess the expertise to make sure your estate plan is one that will endure. Feel free to reach out today.