Five Steps You Can Take to Get Started
Estate planning is the process of designating who will receive your assets and take care of your responsibilities after you pass away or become incapacitated. Your estate plan is also a fluid process that should be updated as your personal and financial situations change, or at least be reviewed every few years. To help get your estate plan going, here are five steps you might consider:
- Make a list of your possessions: You may think you don’t have enough to justify an estate plan. But once you think about it, you might be surprised by all the tangible and intangible assets you have. Your tangible assets may include properties, vehicles, and collectibles. Your intangible assets may include bank and retirement accounts, as well other investments and life insurance policies.
- Review your beneficiaries: Retirement plans and insurance products usually have beneficiary designations that you need to keep track of and update as needed. Those beneficiary designations can outweigh what’s in a will. Designate the percentage of account assets each beneficiary will receive, and make sure to name contingent beneficiaries. It’s also a wise idea to maintain a list of all of your beneficiaries along with the account and/or policy providers’ names and account numbers.
- Establish your directives: A complete estate plan includes important legal directives. A will is a written document that becomes effective only after your death. A trust is active the day it is created, and a grantor can list the distribution of assets before his or her death. All wills must go through a legal process called probate. This process can be long and potentially contentious if family members contest the will. Trusts are not required to go through probate, and they cannot be contested.
- Enlist the help of a professional: If your estate is small and your wishes are simple, an online or packaged will-writing program may be sufficient for your needs. If your estate is more complicated or you have any doubts about the process, consult an estate attorney and possibly a tax advisor.
- Plan on adjustments: Revisit your estate plan when your personal and financial circumstances change. This may include a marriage or divorce, the birth of a child, loss of a loved one, getting a new job, or being terminated. Even if your circumstances don’t change, you should periodically revisit your estate plan as laws may have changed.
Get Your Beneficiaries In Order
An Integral Part of Estate Planning
Every day, people pass away leaving survivors without access to beneficiary information, or beneficiaries are not designated at all. This can lead to unnecessary delays, taxes, legal battles, and/or assets not transferring to your intended heirs. Your Beneficiary Summary Report will help you organize and consolidate your beneficiary information so you know that it is immediately accessible when the time comes.
Provided by Ed Wettig, CFP, Cornerstone Financial Planning Group, which offers investment management, financial planning and retirement income strategies. Representative is registered with and offers only securities and advisory services through PlanMember Securities Corporation, a registered broker/dealer, investment advisor and member FINRA/SIPC. 6187 Carpinteria Ave, Carpinteria, CA 93013, 800-874-6910. Cornerstone Financial Planning Group and PlanMember Securities Corporation are independently owned and operated. PlanMember is not responsible or liable for ancillary products or services offered by Cornerstone Financial Planning Group or this representative.