Do You Need An Estate Plan?
By Christina Bush, CES, CAS, CMFC
Certified Estate and Trust Specialist
The answer is 'absolutely'. Trusts are not just for the wealthy. No matter your net worth, you must have at least a basic estate plan in place to ensure that your family and financial goals are met at the time of your death.
Without it, the fates of your estate and your heirs are up to the court. First is the expensive process of probate, with attorney and court fees taking up to 5% of your estate's value. The appointed executor is also entitled to be paid from the assets of your estate. Add appraiser's fees and other expenses associated with estate distribution. And who decides who receives your wealth and makes the distributions? The court - but only after tying up your property for a year or longer, and making your estate public information that anyone can obtain.
But this all goes away with a well-drafted plan protecting assets inherited by your heirs. The asset can even be protected from lawsuits, divorces and other claims. It will also protect minor children, special needs children, grandchildren and even your pets. Your document sets forth who will be their guardian in your absence, instead of the court making that decision on your behalf. No two children are alike, so a customized estate plan will assure that each child's personal needs are addressed in the manner you wish. You can also impose discipline upon family members who may not be capable or experienced in managing wealth, and protect their inheritance against mismanagement by including specific conditions & rewards as part of the estate plan. Inheritance taxes can also be avoided or greatly reduced.
Establishing a revocable living trust gives you control. You can prevent or discourage challenges to your estate plan, while preserving your ability to make changes at any time. It also helps you to inventory of your assets & net worth including your investments, retirement savings, insurance policies, real estate, business interests & personal property.
Dying without a will, also known as dying 'intestate', can be very costly to your heirs and leaves you with no say as to how your estate gets distributed. Having a plan in place allows you to control your own destiny, preserve your wealth and leave a lasting legacy of excellence for your family.
If an Individual becomes incapacitated, it is important that someone have the legal authority through a Medical Directive to communicate the wishes of that person concerning their medical treatment.
Don't procrastinate. Consult with an estate planning attorney today help get your affairs in order & protect your family's legacy.
Securities America and its representatives do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult the appropriate professional regarding your specific situation.
(written for the San Clemente Times Local Knowledge column)
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