How having a plan in place benefits everyone
Estate planning is something everyone needs to consider, no matter your net worth. More than just a will, an estate plan is a comprehensive set of documents and instructions that outlines requested actions for the division of assets, executor identification, and setting up any trusts and charitable donations. As a whole, its purpose is to ensure that one’s financial legacy is intact and ready to be passed on to the next generation. Can it be challenging? Yes. But the reality of estate planning is that when it is organized in advance, both you and your loved ones can focus on enjoying the little things in life together. With time and intentionality upfront, having a settled estate plan can help alleviate the emotional and financial burden that will fall upon your family after your passing.
Considering that it can take upwards of a year and a half to settle an estate, working to have your estate plan in place before that day shouldn’t be saved for a later date. And we understand how the prospect of estate planning can be overwhelming, even to the point of putting it aside to a later date. Even today, despite the rising belief that estate plans and even basic wills are important, especially amongst 18-34 year old’s, the number one reason people say they don’t have a will or plan in place is as simple as not getting around to it.
Whether this is based on the belief that estate plans are for an older generation or that it can be done quickly and independently, these misconceptions can mean complications and obstacles down the road. This is why we encourage beginning the process sooner rather than later, starting with a solid understanding the importance of and steps necessary for solid estate plan.
Like we mentioned before, estate planning is the circle that encompasses a will, while also including additional documents or instructions like a living will for preferred medical care and formal trusts set up for minors. Estate plans also ensure a higher level of privacy as many of the documents do not go into public record. If your assets will be extensive, this extra layer of privacy can provide additional peace of mind for both you and your loved ones.
Every person’s estate plans are unique to their situation but the foundations will be the same for most people:
- Consider working with both a financial advisor and a lawyer that will journey alongside you and your family in a way that represents what is important to you and your estate. While a lot of the work can be done on your end, there is a risk of legality challenges that could extend the settlement longer without the guidance of seasoned experts.
- Outline your estimated net worth and identify your beneficiaries or charities you want to include. Setting up a charitable donation is one way to limit additional taxes. This is also true with some trusts.
- Make sure you understand what it means to be an executor or administrator of an estate, and make a list of individuals you want to consider asking. This person will need to be calm, organized, diplomatic, and have the time available to execute.
- Set aside the time to do this right. Being intentional and thoughtful not only ensures accuracy, it can save months (if not years) of stress and heartache for your loved ones after you’ve passed. In many ways, an estate plan is your final gift to them.
We’ve provided a more detailed checklist in hopes it can help facilitate the estate planning process for you. We believe that estate planning is just one more way we can help you steward your financial achievements, and are here to guide you along this process when you’re ready.
- Estimate a baseline of your net worth by calculating all assets such as cash, investments, retirement funds, and property, and compare to any remaining debt.
- Identify potential individuals that could act as your legal representative to ensure the estate settles accordingly.
- Identify key beneficiaries, heirs, charities, and any other recipients, and how your assets should be divided amongst them. Also identify anyone that you are excluding.
- For specific items, outline who will receive them.
- Have all necessary information readily available, such as bank account numbers, passwords and user ID names/numbers, location of vital documents, etc.
- Identify the types of legal documents needed for your estate. These can include:
- General durable power of attorney
- Living will and designation of patient advocate
- Will Revocable living trust (optional)
(For more information on these documents, please contact us to request a copy of our Grand Wealth Management Estate Planning Guide.)
- Work with your preferred advisors and legal professionals to document all earlier identified assets, debts, property and charitable allocations, etc.
- Confirm your legal representative (executor and/or power of attorney) and outline location and requirements for all estate documents.
- Ensure your household is in order – both financially and physically. Preemptively sorting and reallocating household items and heirlooms can help avoid unnecessary stress.
- Compile and record all necessary identification and personal documentation for your beneficiaries and any trust or charitable recipients.
- Prepare to revisit all documentation yearly to ensure up-to-date records and plans.
Estate planning entails hard work, but this is something we (and you) want to get right. Our GWM Estate Planning Guide is a great tool to help you along the way. If you'd like to learn more, please let us know.
Grand Wealth Management, LLC
333 Bridge Street NW, Suite 800
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Through our wealth management process we look forward to learning what is important to you and introducing you to our professional team. Contact us to get started.