Estate planning may not typically rank high on your priority list, but it is crucial to create a plan for the benefit of your family's future and your peace of mind. Continue reading below to discover how to safeguard your assets while leaving a lasting legacy.
Understanding The Importance of Estate Planning
Estate planning is a crucial aspect of retirement planning as it allows retirees to set a blueprint for the distribution of their assets after their passing. Without an estate plan in place, retirees risk leaving their loved ones without clear instructions on how to handle their estate. This can lead to confusion, disputes, and potentially costly legal battles.
By creating an estate plan, you can help ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, minimizing the likelihood of family conflict. Before consulting with an Attorney or Fiduciary advisor to start your estate plan, take some time to reflect on your posthumous wishes, as well as some critical questions and scenarios, including:
- Who will act on my behalf if I become incapacitated due to illness or injury?
- What kind of life-sustaining measures do I desire as I approach the end of my life?
- Who will take care of my underage children if I pass away?
- How do I want to distribute my assets after my demise?
Although it may be challenging to initiate, discussing your intentions with your loved ones in advance allows you to convey your wishes clearly and provides an opportunity for everyone to ask questions or express their concerns.
Creating Your Estate Plan
In addition to a will, an estate plan may involve various documents that reflect a person's unique circumstances, such as Living Trusts or Power of Attorney. These complexities can be addressed by your Fiduciary advisor, who can assist in helping to ensure that all necessary documents are properly completed, witnessed, signed, filed, and stored in accordance with state laws.
The following items are some of the most common documents that can be included in an estate plan:
A trust outlines precisely how and when your assets will be distributed after your demise, and it can also serve to reduce taxes, bypass probate, and identify the person responsible for caring for your minor children in the event of your passing. Often, individuals use trust in conjunction with a will. The primary distinction between a trust and a will is that a trust circumvents the probate process of transferring property from you to your beneficiaries. The following are two of the most common types of trusts:
- Revocable Trusts - Allows changes to terminate the trust during their lifetime.
- Irrevocable Trusts - Cannot be changed once it is created.
Both types of trusts offer unique advantages and disadvantages, depending on your circumstances and estate planning goals.
Powers of Attorney
In addition to planning for the distribution of your assets, it is also essential to plan for situations where you cannot make decisions for yourself. There are several different Power of Attorney (POA) appointed tasks that you should consider, including:
- A financial power of attorney appoints someone to manage your finances if you become incapacitated.
- A healthcare power of attorney appoints someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate your wishes.
- A living will outline your specific wishes for life-sustaining treatments, such as whether you want to receive life support or have a “do not resuscitate” order (DNR) in place.
Your health care power of attorney and living will are often referred to as "advance directives," "health care directives," or "medical directives." These documents can be incredibly beneficial in end-of-life situations and serious medical conditions, which can understandably be emotionally challenging for your loved ones.
By including these documents in your estate plan, you can help minimize the stress and anxiety your family members will experience.
Regularly Reviewing Your Estate Plan
As life changes, so will your estate plan. It's paramount to periodically review your estate plan to ensure that everything is current and meets your requirements. Here are some factors to consider when it's time to update your estate plan:
- Moving to a new location.
- Getting married or divorced.
- Retiring from work.
- Receiving a substantial inheritance.
Apart from reviewing your trusts and power of attorney, it's also important to verify that the designated beneficiaries for your life insurance policies, retirement plans, and bank accounts are appropriate.
Minimize Income, Gift and Estate Taxes
Estate planning and tax planning go hand-in-hand. Estate tax planning attempts to reduce potential estate tax liability by utilizing planning techniques to reduce either the amount of property in the taxable estate, or to minimize the valuation of the property in the taxable estate. Some strategies to include:
- Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT): an effective strategy for transferring wealth to your beneficiaries without incurring any income tax or estate
tax liability. (Up to $17,000 per beneficiary in 2023).
- Portability Election: an estate tax-saving strategy that is used to “transfer” a deceased spouse’s applicable exclusion to the surviving spouse (in 2023 to $12.92 million per individual ($25.84 million for married couples).
- Gifting: You may gift up to the annual exclusion amount ($17,000, if single and $34,000, if married for 2023) to as many individuals as you wish without incurring gift taxes.
How a Fiduciary Advisor Can Help
A Fiduciary advisor can be a valuable resource when it comes to planning your estate, especially for those who may have complex financial and personal circumstances to consider. A Fiduciary advisor is held to the highest ethical standard and is legally required to act in the best interest of their clients.
At Agemy Financial Strategies, our Fiduciary Advisors can help you navigate the intricacies of estate planning. This includes crafting a comprehensive plan for the distribution of assets, minimizing tax liability, and identifying the right type of trust to suit your needs. If you have more questions about our estate planning services, see here.
Working With Agemy Financial Strategies
Without an estate plan in place, your heirs could face big tax burdens and the courts could designate how your assets are divided.
When it comes to creating your estate plan, having a retirement income advisor that you trust is crucial to your planning success. At Agemy Financial Strategies, we have over 30 years of estate planning experience to guide you through the entire process.
While a proper estate plan will not enable you to avoid death, it can help eliminate, or at the very least, minimize estate taxes. Our experienced estate planning advisors will assess your assets, listen to your concerns and recommend an approach that is most likely to safeguard your estate for future generations.