When you hear “estate planning,” what do you think of? For many people, these words evoke images of immense wealth. But estate planning isn’t just for the wealthy – it’s for everyone. And it’s about more than preserving wealth – it’s about putting you in control of your own legacy. But how can you achieve this worthy goal?
You can start by identifying your estate planning objectives. Here are some of the most common ones:
• Controlling movement of assets to beneficiaries – During and after your lifetime, you will want to ensure your loved ones receive what you want them to have, and when. Through documents such as a will and a living trust, and techniques involving life insurance and using proper beneficiary designations, you – not the courts – will control the movement of your assets to the desired recipients.
• Naming someone to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated – Naturally, you hope to stay in good physical and mental shape throughout your life and remain capable of making your own financial and health care decisions. But the future is not ours to see, so, to protect your interests and those of your loved ones, you may want to consider creating arrangements such as a power of attorney, health care directive and a living will. In this way, you’ll still be able to control the key choices that may lie ahead.
• Providing for minor children or dependents – If you have young children or other dependents, you’ll want to be sure they’ll be looked after if you aren’t around. In your estate plans, you can name a guardian for them. You can also use various estate planning tools, such as life insurance, beneficiary designations and the establishment of a trust to provide the necessary financial resources for your loved ones.
• Supporting charitable organizations – Leaving something behind for your family is obviously an enormous part of your legacy – but it may also be important to you to provide support for charitable groups whose work you’ve admired. Of course, you can contribute to these organizations while you’re alive, but through strategies such as donor-advised funds and charitable remainder trusts, you can include these groups in your estate plans.
• Managing taxes efficiently – If you’re likely to have a large estate, your heirs may need to be concerned with income and estate taxes. To help control these taxes, you can take a number of steps, such as making outright gifts to your family during your lifetime, establishing an irrevocable life insurance trust, creating a family limited partnership and making charitable donations.
All the estate-planning strategies and techniques mentioned here can be complex – so, to implement them, you’ll need to work with an estate planning attorney and a tax professional. You may also want to include your financial advisor, who can help ensure your estate planning objectives align with your important financial goals, such as living comfortably in retirement and providing for your children’s or grandchildren’s education.
By identifying your objectives and working with your professional team, you can create an effective estate plan – and help yourself maintain control of your legacy.
[Arnetta Tolley, Financial Advisor Edward Jones Investments 626-744-2740 or Arnetta.firstname.lastname@example.org.]