Wills. Trusts. Beneficiary Designations. Powers of Attorney.
Your estate plan can protect your family, your assets, and your causes. It’s never too early to start, and it’s never a bad idea to review what you created years ago. Wills and trusts aren’t set in stone. You should update them as life events require and as applicable laws change. What worked for you decades ago may no longer meet your needs.
Wills & Trusts
A will spells out what happens to assets at death. It can appoint a guardian for minor children; include estate tax planning; create trusts for anyone who shouldn’t be managing his or her own assets; and address special circumstances for blended families. Some clients establish revocable trusts for the same purposes, depending on where their assets are located and concerns about the privacy or complexity of their estates.
Beneficiary designations create distribution plans that apply regardless of how a will or revocable trust is drafted. It is critical that those designations complement and enhance—but not undermine—the disposition plan in your primary documents. Coordinating beneficiary designations with the rest of your plan is one of the most important aspects of the estate planning process.
Powers of Attorney
Powers of attorney name agents to manage finances and health care decision making if you become incapacitated. The agents’ authority and duties can vary according to your needs.
A living will outlines the medical treatment you want—or don’t want—if you can’t make your own decisions. This can be a “stand alone” document or it can be part of your health care power of attorney. In either case, clear directives about medical intervention can eliminate family conflicts and assure loved ones that they are acting consistently with your wishes.
You may create instructions for the disposition of your remains, donation of your body for medical research, and funeral and memorial services.
Many individuals pursue charitable giving to meet philanthropic goals and to eliminate or minimize estate taxes. It can be a good way to put your assets to work directly for causes you believe in, whether you’re giving to an existing organization or creating one of your own.
Charitable giving can be as easy as including gifts in a will or trust or naming a charity as the direct beneficiary of life insurance or retirement plans. For larger estates, it may make sense to establish charitable trusts that not only create estate tax savings, but also provide income tax deductions and perhaps an income stream during lifetime. Clients who want to involve their children and grandchildren in ongoing family philanthropy may be interested in establishing multi-generational gifts through existing charitable institutions such as community foundations or universities. Today’s gifts can change lives for generations.
A Plan Tailored For You
A comprehensive estate plan can address:
Estate tax reduction
Distribution of retirement plans (IRAs, 401(k)s) life insurance, annuities
Health care (living wills, medical powers of attorney)