Estate Planning has been defined as a process that allows us to achieve several main goals including:
- Ensuring that your estate is used and distributed, before and after your death, in ways consistent with your wishes and objectives.
- Ensuring that the estate is large enough, with insurance proceeds, to provide the desired levels of family income security and lifestyle.
- Maximizing after-tax incomes and minimizing taxation
- Directing how your intentions for the distribution of your estate will be carried out
- Designing plans for intentional giving to financial, charitable, educational and religious institutions that you hold dear
- Ensuring the estate for those with special needs children and other family members is large enough to provide the desired level of support and care, and to ensure your estate is distributed according to your wishes and objectives
- For those with children or dependents, to determine the guardians and future needs (monetary or non-monetary) of these individuals
- Designing plans that will legally entrust an individual(s) to make financial and personal care decisions in your best interest should you lose capacity to do so.
- Ensuring you understand the role of your chosen executor and the duties and responsibilities that come with this position.
“It was at the extremes of both worlds where the act of willing was falling short of producing anything of real consequence. For both failed to acknowledge that death can be a collaboration and that the best death is one we see coming, one whose certainty is absolute and if shared with the people we entrust to continue our work, a death well lived……For the living, isn’t a Will the perfect place to start sharing ideas with the people we love and trust while we’re all healthy and thinking clearly? Isn’t a Will the perfect place to talk about how we can end our life story with an exclamation mark, not a question mark? ……The consequences of not updating your Will reach far beyond the financial and will affect your family today and after you die”
By Thomas William Deans Ph.D. in his book Willing Wisdom: 7 Questions Successful Families Ask.
Why You Need Estate Planning!
Prior to death, and as people are tending to live longer, we are increasingly finding the need for someone else to take over decision making due to mental incapacity. This right, for a family member to take over decision making, for example, is not automatic.
With all the above points in mind, there are THREE important documents that are used to achieve these goals.
- A Will
- Enduring Power of Attorney
- Personal Directive
As today’s family structures and the estate laws themselves continue to evolve or change, new considerations may come into play. For example, the blended family structure has a distinct set of estate planning needs when compared to the “traditional” family unit. For this reason, it is very important to visit the concept of family contracts when reviewing estate planning needs. Families with special needs children or other members with special needs, and families with businesses would also have distinct and more complex estate planning and succession planning needs than a traditional family unit.
It is our goal to inspire the creation of an estate plan, to make it less daunting and shed positive light on the topic of death (and taxes and the general probate process), and to influence positive discussion with family members of all generations to Will with intent, purpose and meaning – Josephine DeLauretis
Any estate review by the Financial Planner does not replace the work of a qualified lawyer. The Financial Planner’s review would focus on the strategic elements of the documents, leaving the legal issues to the lawyer. These documents, once prepared, should be able to address any reasonable (or unwanted) situations that may occur at the time of your death, or mental incapacity, or changing family circumstances.