Updated: Jun 15
Having an estate strategy puts you in charge of life’s important decisions.
Here are four parts to consider.
1. Write a “Cheat Sheet” letter.
A cheat sheet is not a legal document, but a letter that can help your beneficiaries locate important papers and outlines your financial wishes.
Here are a few ideas and concepts that may be included:
The location of important legal documents, such as your will, insurance policies, titles to automobiles, deeds to property, etc.
A list of financial assets, including savings and checking accounts, stocks, bonds, and retirement accounts. Be sure to include account numbers, PINs, and passwords where applicable.
A list of pensions or profit-sharing plans, including the location of their explanatory booklets.
The location of your latest tax return and Social Security statements.
The location of any safe deposit boxes and their keys.
2. Set up a living will.
Living wills, also known as advance directives, address the medical care that you want to receive. Typically, living wills address whether you desire life-saving medical measures, but they can address other medical wishes.
Review your advance directives with your doctor and your health care agent to be sure you have filled out forms correctly. When you have completed your documents, you need to do the following:
Keep the originals in a safe but easily accessible place.
Give a copy to your doctor.
Give a copy to your health care agent and any alternate agents.
Keep a record of who has your advance directives.
Talk to family members and other important people in your life about your advance directives and your health care wishes. By having these conversations now, you help ensure that your family members clearly understand your wishes.
Carry a wallet-sized card that indicates you have advance directives, identifies your health care agent and states where a copy of your directives can be found.
Keep a copy with you when you are traveling or in your cloud drive.
3. Think about a living trust.
Living trusts are created and funded by assets you put into them while you’re alive. The assets in the trust then pass to a beneficiary after your death.
The living trust offers a number of potential benefits, including:
Avoid Probate - Assets are designed to transfer outside the probate process, providing a seamless, private transfer of assets.
Manage Your Affairs - A living trust can be a mechanism for caring for you and your property in the event of your physical or mental disability, provided that you have adequately funded it and named a trustworthy trustee or alternative trustee.
Ease and Simplicity - It is a simple matter for a qualified lawyer to create a living trust tailored to your specific objectives. Should circumstances change, it is also a straightforward task to change the trust’s provisions.
Avoid Will Contests - Assets passing via a living trust may be less susceptible to the sort of challenge you might see with a will transfer.
4. Establish Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney lets another person execute personal and legal matters on your behalf. A medical power of attorney designates who will make health care decisions for you in an emergency.
The person you designate as a power of attorney doesn’t have to be an attorney. Anyone you trust, such as a family member or friend, can serve in this role for you. You can even designate more than one person, assigning different responsibilities to each.
There are many types of POAs, and understanding them will help you choose one that’s the best fit for you. Below is a breakdown of some of the most common varieties.
1. General Power Of Attorney – An agent under this agreement can serve any and all needs, as your state allows. They can do things like sign checks, sell property, and more.
2. Limited Power Of Attorney – An agent under this agreement can serve specific legal needs for limited timeframes. For example, you may choose to designate a loved one to manage only your retirement accounts for a few years.
3. Durable Medical Power Of Attorney – A durable medical power of attorney for health care agreement authorizes someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. Like the living will and the power of attorney, it may not need to go through any additional legal proceedings.
Preparing your estate is part of a sound financial strategy. If it’s been a while since you looked at your estate strategy or had a life change, like a marriage or divorce, it may be time for a review.
Do you have someone to hold you accountable to complete a review of your estate plan?
Are you comfortable with your progress towards helping future generations meet their financial goals? If you have more than $2 million saved and need help from a wealth manager, the Peak Wealth Planning team can assist.
Peak Wealth Planning specializes in helping high-net worth individuals and families plan for the future.
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About the Author
Peter Newman is a Chartered Financial Advisor (CFA) and president of Peak Wealth Planning. He works with individuals nationwide that have accumulated wealth through company stock, ESOP shares, real estate, or running a business. Peter applies his unique background to help clients achieve their specific goals and enjoy peace of mind.
Peak Wealth Planning provides concierge services to meet your wealth management needs. Services include: financial planning, investment management, esop diversification, retirement income, insurance, and estate planning advice. Peak Wealth Planning is a fee-based financial advisor based in Champaign, Illinois, and Fraser, Colorado.