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Are You Neglecting Your Estate Planning?

December 22, 2023
Andrew Sigerson
Estate Plan
Estate planning is a vital part of financial management that often gets overlooked.

Estate planning is about more than ensuring that assets are distributed according to your own wishes after you die. It’s also about what you’d like to have happen to your assets and who you want to be in charge of your health care decisions if you become incapacitated. A recent article from Go Banking Rates, “8 Key Signs You’re Neglecting Essential Estate Planning,” outlines the top signs showing that you need to take care of this critical task.

You don’t have a will? This is the biggest red flag of estate planning mistakes. A will, or last will and testament, is a critical legal document specifying how you want your assets to be distributed after you die. If you don’t have a will, the laws of your state will determine how everything in your estate will be given to heirs. If you have estranged family members, they may end up owning everything. There won’t be anything your beloved family members can do about it. All state’s laws are different, so speak with a local estate planning attorney to address this critical document.

How outdated are your beneficiary designations? Many people open accounts as young adults and forget to update them as the decades pass. If you’ve been married, divorced, had children, experienced loss, or if your beneficiaries are no longer part of your life, you will want to update your beneficiary designations. Your assets could very easily go to people like an ex-spouse or a former friend. Beneficiary information should be updated every few years to be sure that your current wishes are followed.

Do you have a Power of Attorney? Everyone of legal age should have a Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney is a legal document giving a person of your choice the legal power to make decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so because of illness or an injury. Without a POA, your family will need to go to court to apply for guardianship to take care of various duties, like paying bills, managing investments, or maintaining your home.

Do you have an inventory of digital assets? If you pay bills online, are active on social media accounts, or own any digital assets like cryptocurrency, you need a plan for digital assets. Start by making a complete inventory of your accounts—you’ll be surprised at how much of your life is lived online. Some platforms have an option for naming a “legacy” contact—someone who can access your data and manage it after you pass. Your digital executor will also need usernames and passwords. Otherwise, they won’t be able to access your accounts.

Have you planned for taxes? Estate planning includes understanding the tax implications of assets. There may be estate taxes or state estate taxes due from your estate, and failing to plan could leave heirs with a smaller or no inheritance.

Do you need a trust? Trusts are valuable tools for addressing specific needs, from caring for a disabled family member to managing minor children's assets. Without trusts, these individuals could face unexpected complications that could otherwise be avoided.

If you own a business, do you have a succession plan? Business owners need a succession plan to protect their work and family. Planning for a smooth transition includes naming key employees, creating partnership or shareholder agreements and determining if the business can continue to operate and provide income to family members, including the retiring owner.

What about end-of-life care plans? Estate planning includes end-of-life care, including a living will or healthcare directives. Your family will be less stressed if you have documented your wishes for what kind of health care you want or don’t want if you become incapacitated.

Reference: Go Banking Rates (Nov. 25, 2023) “8 Key Signs You’re Neglecting Essential Estate Planning”

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