Everyone understands the importance of estate documents. However, creating or updating these documents can be an overwhelming task. It’s a subject most people prefer to avoid, and finding the right individuals to execute your estate plan can be challenging. The process of working through your estate plan is made easier with the help of professionals such as financial advisors, accountants, and attorneys. Each professional offers unique perspectives to assist you in deciding who will implement your plan and who will be your beneficiaries.

Getting Started with Estate Planning

The first step is to inventory your assets, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, and life insurance. Next, determine how you want your estate distributed, consider contingencies if your chosen beneficiaries are not living, and decide who will act as trustee or executor to follow your instructions. If you lack trusted family or friends for these roles, you might consider alternatives like trust companies or law firms that specialize in handling estates. Regardless of the choice, these decisions can be challenging and should include appointing powers of attorney in case you become incapacitated.

Overcoming Challenges

Personalities, varying levels of financial knowledge, and family dynamics can hinder progress. It’s crucial to have something in place that reflects your wishes. While initial solutions might not be perfect, remember that you can always review and update your estate plan over time.

Understanding Different Roles

Executor: The executor probates the will and handles court and tax filings. Many clients hire their attorney to assist with these tasks, even if they are the executor. The executor follows the will’s terms.

Trustees: Trustees manage assets placed into a trust. For the trust to function, properties and investment accounts must be retitled in its name. The trust’s terms dictate how trustees manage and distribute assets and handle any necessary tax filings.

Power of Attorney (POA): This powerful document grants authority to another individual to act on your behalf if you are incapacitated. The POA outlines what constitutes a disability and whether physician notices are required. Note that POA authority ceases at death.

Living Will: Also known as an advanced health care directive, this document specifies your medical treatment preferences if you cannot make decisions. It is very important that your proxy understands your feelings and beliefs on what you would like to have happen.

Guardian: A guardian should be named if you have minor children or dependents, such as family members with disabilities or special needs. Family members are often chosen as they typically have the best understanding of the family situation.

Completing the Process

After navigating the estate planning process, it’s vital to follow through. This might involve updating the titling on accounts or real estate to align with your trust and updating beneficiary designations. Failing to complete these steps means your plan cannot be fully executed as designed. Your attorney will draft the necessary documents and provide specific instructions for full implementation. We will help prepare the paperwork to update your accounts once instructed.

Regular Reviews

Life is constantly changing, so periodically reviewing your estate plan is essential. Ensure your documents still reflect your current wishes and that nothing has changed regarding your appointed individuals or beneficiaries. We aim to keep this at the forefront for you, ensuring everything remains up to date.

Jan’s passion for helping clients work towards their financial goals began almost 40 years ago. His planning is based on personal relationships and a true understanding of clients and their goals. Jan graduated from George Washington University with a BBA in Accounting and an MBA in Finance and Investments. He has been a Certified Financial Planner since 1984. Jan enjoys music, travel, cooking, and family time.

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