Why Do I Need an Estate Plan?

“Some are sad.
And some are glad.
And some are very, very bad.
Why are they Sad and glad and bad?
I do not know.
Go ask your dad.”

― Dr. SeussOne Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

“A will can save one’s family from being put into a quagmired pit of legal conundrum, in case of death (which may even be untimely).” ― Henrietta Newton Martin. Did you know that more than half of American adults—and 78% of millennials—don’t have any basic estate planning documents like a will or living trust? It may not be that much of a shock, since younger adults tend to put off thoughts of estate planning. However, even if you don’t have children or many assets yet, you can benefit from creating an estate plan now. Forbes’s recent article, “6 Reasons Why You Should Have An Estate Plan,” provided six reasons why you should have an estate plan at any point in life:

Why Do I Need an Estate Plan?
Plan for yourself.

A big step in the estate planning process, is deciding who will make decisions on your behalf, if you’re unable to do so yourself. If you become incapacitated, a revocable trust will hold assets for your benefit, while you’re alive and name the individuals you want to receive your property when you pass. Designating an agent under a durable power of attorney to act on your behalf when it comes to financial and legal matters, if you become physically or mentally disabled, can help make certain that any decisions made, are in your best interest. If you can’t make medical decisions for yourself, you should have a healthcare proxy, agent or power of attorney, HIPAA release, and living will.

Decide How to Dispose of Your Wealth.

A will names an executor or personal representative who’s responsible for the administration of your estate after you die. He or she distributes property, as you determine in your will. If you have minor children, you can also designate a guardian to care for them in your will. Any life insurance, retirement accounts, or annuities require you to name beneficiaries, so they don’t need to be included in a will.

Lessen Transfer Taxes.

One goal of estate planning is to maximize the wealth you transfer to your beneficiaries, along with minimizing transfer taxes. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 expanded the amount individuals may give away at death—or during life—without any transfer taxes. The new law offers an increased exemption amount and portability. That means spouses can share one another’s exemption. You can make annual tax-free gifts up to $15,000 in 2019 (twice this amount for married couples). You can also pay medical and educational expenses for someone else without any gift tax.

Include Charitable Giving.

If you have philanthropic goals, an estate plan can help make certain that your objectives are satisfied. You can select a charity that’s important to you, choose the assets you want to donate, and decide—along with your attorney—the best way to make your gift.

Protect Family Wealth.

There can also be wealth protection benefits in estate planning through asset ownership arrangements, insurance, limited liability entities, irrevocable trusts and asset protection trusts. These are designed to protect your assets from creditors. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you decide, if one of these options is appropriate for your situation.

Ready your Family to Receive Wealth.

You can also prepare the next generation to receive wealth, which can also be helpful in preserving family wealth in the long run. Your estate plan can set out wealth planning goals, facilitate conversations about what wealth means to your family and educate your adult children about financial ideas and the ways in which they can get involved in creating and sustaining the family legacy.

Why Do I Need an Estate Plan? Estate planning can be a formidable task, especially if you’re starting from ground zero. However, you can always engage an estate planning attorney to help you develop the documents you need to give you peace of mind about your financial affairs.

Reference: Forbes (February 22, 2019) “6 Reasons Why You Should Have An Estate Plan”