Estate planning is something you implement not for yourself, but instead for the ones you care about.
It seems that this is one reason that many estate plans do not get implemented or are incomplete.
This website is not meant to provide A-Z content on what to do and how to do it when it comes to various topics. That’s why we put together our OnPointe Financial Literacy Course (which we recommend everyone who is serious about protecting and growing their money for and in retirement take).
If you do NOT have an estate plan and would like help implementing one, or if you would like your estate plan to be reviewed to make sure it is set up correctly, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many people are charitably inclined. Many people would like to benefit the church they’ve belonged to for years. A great place to benefit your local church is by incorporating the church into your estate plan. Without a formal estate plan, this is not possible which is why everyone should take the time to implement proper and needed estate planning documents.
However, in an effort to motivate readers, we did want to point out the basic estate planning tools and why you should have them.
If you have minor children you must have a will. The will dictates who will get custody of the children. Married couples may not think this is an issue, but there are many stories of both parents being killed in accidents (usually automobile) and without a will, there could be a battle over who gets custody of the kids. This can be avoided with a will.
The other simple reason to have a will is to dictate who will get your property and in what percentages. If you don’t have a will, you state laws will dictate the division.
Living trusts (also known as A&B trusts or marital trusts if married)
Every estate plan should have living trusts. Why? Because they help avoid probate fees and can hold assets after death for distribution in a manner that could extend many years or decades.
For larger estates, these are vital tools to help minimize estate taxes.
If you already have this tool, the question is whether it’s been funded. ONLY assets titled in the name of the trust will avoid the probate process and the fees associated with it.
Durable powers of attorney
These are needed items in EVERY estate plan.
There are two main powers that are needed.
1) Legal—legal powers allow someone to act on your behalf in case you become incapacitated. If you are not conscious (you could be in a coma for a period of time after a car crash for example), bills still need to be paid (mortgage, credit card, college tuition for a child, etc.), and legal powers give a person you appoint the legal authority to act on your behalf (pay bills, take money from an IRA, etc.).
Without this document, your family may need to go to court just to get basic bills paid. Going to court is a slow and expensive process that can be avoided with this document.
2) Medical—medical powers give a person you appoint the legal authority to make medical decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated. Most people think of this document when they think of end of life decisions (should the feeding tube be removed or other decisions that need to be made). This document can be very specific and tell your appointed person to make every effort to keep you alive or to literally pull the plug with more liberal language.
Without this document, your family may need to go to court to fight a hospital or doctor’s decisions when it comes to your medical care. Going to court is a slow and expensive process that can be avoided with this document.