Estate Planning Overview
By Kevin Taylor
I have been asked by several clients to provide an overview of the estate planning process and highlight the most common strategies and vehicles. Because this is such a broad area, I have decided to break it up into a series of focused excerpts over the next few months. I will begin with a general overview of estate planning and will follow up with the techniques and vehicles used in later editions.
What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is a process that helps you preserve and protect your wealth now, while you are alive, and upon death when your wealth is transferred to other individuals or organizations. It helps ensure transfer of wealth according to your values, vision, and goals. Estate planning helps protect your privacy and ensures your loved ones are cared for. It also allows you to communicate your wishes regarding end of life medical decisions and health care, and ensures your personal objectives and beliefs are strictly followed.
Who Needs Estate Planning?
Nearly everyone. While your specific estate planning needs can vary based on several factors, such as your age, health, wealth, and goals, nearly everyone can benefit from having a structured, well-designed estate plan in place.
First and foremost, you want to remain confident regarding your own financial security. After safeguarding your own financial wellbeing, you may wish to shift your focus to helping family now and when you are gone. The question is, how can you do so in a way that provides your family the maximum benefit, yet still encourages your heirs to achieve all they can? For some, giving back to worthy charitable causes, your community, and those who helped you along the way may all be equally important. The challenge arises in implementing an estate plan that increases the likelihood that lifetime gifts, and bequests at death, will truly perpetuate your estate planning values.
When estate planning has a sound structure, you leave a legacy, instill your values, and provide resources to loved ones in a responsible and efficient manner, that make a real difference to your community and causes. When the planning is poorly structured, you may find your hard-earned assets are unnecessarily taxed, squandered by charities or loved ones, exposed to lawsuits or creditors, or, even worse, create substantial family conflict and enable risky and indulgent behavior.
It can be especially important to have a structured plan in place when you fall into any of the categories below:
- Desire to delay distribution of wealth to your heirs
- Second marriage for one or both spouses
- Business owner
- Charitable intentions
- Children are minors or have special needs
- Estate is valued at more than the federal gift and estate tax applicable exclusion amount, or your state’s death exclusion amount
Whether it is a lack of time, family conflict, taxes or conflicted advice; estate planning is not an exact science so it requires professional direction. For nearly 30 years, we have been helping individuals and families who have achieved significant financial success preserve, protect, and transfer their wealth. Our team provides guidance, perspective, and experience to manage the complex issues associated with estate planning and wealth transfer. When you build this sound structure, you leave a legacy, instill your values, and provide resources to loved ones in a responsible and efficient manner that positively impacts your community and the causes closest to you.