Why Is Having an Estate Plan Important?
In the first post of this estate-planning series, we reviewed the basic types of estate planning documents. This post will widen our focus and take a high-level view of estate planning by examining the two purposes of a well-executed estate plan — protection and direction.
Having a fully executed estate plan protects the owner’s estate from going to probate after passing. Think of probate as a waiting room, where the assets in question wait for the courts to get involved, which can take anywhere from six months to two years. That can feel incredibly long for a beneficiary who is waiting for their proceeds. A desire to avoid probate is reason enough to implement an estate plan.
If set up properly, an estate plan can serve as a useful tool to manage or possibly avoid taxes depending on the individual’s situation.
The final element of the plan aims to protect assets in the estate from lawsuit claims or other claims from a surviving spouse from a second marriage. Properly established trusts within the overall estate plan can offer these additional layers of protection to the account holder.
Another reason to have an estate plan in place is direction. Each document within an estate plan, as outlined in the first installment of this three-part series, lays out direction about guardianship, medical decisions, and asset transfer. If an account holder is fearful about how their final wishes will play out, having an estate plan can provide increased peace of mind. If a direction is documented, no matter how unique or complex, it will be followed to the letter of the law.
Women and Estate Planning
Having proper directions in place is even more critical for women because, on average, women live longer than men and become the surviving spouse. At the time of the husband’s passing, contingent beneficiaries move up to primary, making it imperative that beneficiaries and trust documents are set up properly. Or take another example, in the case of a divorce or second marriage, forgetting to update your estate-planning documents could mean that your assets, after your passing, could go to your ex-spouse instead of your children because you didn’t update a few simple documents.
We hope you’ll seize the moment and make sure you have your estate planning ducks in a row. Without a proper plan in place your assets may not be there to support your family in a timely fashion or, even worse, may be at risk of falling into the wrong hands after your passing.
Estate Planning and Life Stages
The third and final installment of this blog series will discuss estate planning for every stage of a woman’s life. It will provide a helpful overview about how estate planning needs evolve and change over your lifespan.
This is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as personalized investment or tax advice. Please consult your investment and tax professional regarding your unique situation.