An amazing number of Americans do not have Wills, and many who have a Will have not updated it to reflect changes in laws or lifestyles. This could result in many unintended consequences for your heirs and loved ones.
A successful estate plan takes more than good intentions. It is most successful when coordinated between generations; one generation makes a clear and sensible plan, and successive generations understand that plan and are involved in the process. Without proper planning, the fruits of a lifetime may be at risk. With the help of the proper professionals, you should be able to side step many problems that could arise. The potential pitfalls range from the simple to the complex. Here are a few to be aware of as you consider your current estate situation:
Failure to have a Will
It is estimated that between 60% to 70% of Americans have no Will. This number does not include those Wills that are out-of-date or improperly prepared. For parents, a Will is the single most important thing you can do to make sure your child is cared for by people you want if anything should happen to you. For everyone else, understand that a nameless, faceless court will decide how your assets will be distributed if a Will is not in place.
No Planning for Incapacity
An aging parent slowly slips into dementia. A 40-year-old father of three has an accident and is left in a coma. Everyone is vulnerable and could fall into an incapacitated state at any time. If there is no clear plan for spouses and heirs, a great deal of needless emotional upheaval can occur during an already devastating situation—not to mention the amount of time and money that could be wasted. Advanced health care directives and Powers of Attorney need to be in place before the unforeseen occurs.
Failure to Update Beneficiaries
Make an inventory of retirement accounts, investments, trusts, insurance policies and savings accounts. Review these accounts for the beneficiary designation, and how these beneficiaries are coordinated with one another. Many people think if a Will is in place, beneficiary designations on accounts become irrelevant. This is not true.
Failure to Update
Anytime there is a change to permanent residence, a birth, a death, a divorce, or other major life transition, it is time to review your estate plan. Seek advice from both your legal adviser, as well as your financial adviser.
The tax environment is constantly changing not only on a federal level, but on the state level as well. These changes can be permanent or temporary. The heirs, or charities of your choice, remain the chief beneficiaries of your lifetime’s work. Be sure to discuss all proper tax planning possibilities with your tax consultant. There is no need to pay more to Uncle Sam than is required.
In addition to the above mentioned items, there are many other considerations, when thinking of your unique planning situation. For more information on Wills, estate planning, and how it affects you, please contact Henssler Financial at 770-429-9166, or [email protected].