Estate planning is for everyone, not just the very wealthy. It is about ensuring control of your estate and planning ahead, so there are no uncertainties about how it is managed in the future. It can also help minimize the effect of tax and ensure that your beneficiaries are looked after, especially young children or any dependents who may be vulnerable and need special care.
Top 9 Elements for an Effective Estate Plan
- Will—This a written document in which you identify what you’d like done with your assets upon your death. Even those with modest means should have a will and keep it current.
- Living Will—This document, also called a directive to physicians or advance directive, is a document that lets people state their wishes for end-of-life medical care, in case they become unable to communicate their decisions. It has no power after death.
- Durable Power of Attorney— A durable power of attorney allows the person you designate to access and control your financial assets. It can take effect immediately, or it can “spring” into effect if an event you define triggers its operation, such as incapacitation or unavailability. Often, a living wills are created with durable power of attorney document.
- Living Trust— A living trust is a legal document you create during your lifetime. Just like a will, a living trust spells out what your desires are with regard to your assets, your dependents, and your heirs. A living trust bypasses the costly and time-consuming process of probate, enabling your successor trustee) to carry out your instructions as documented in your living trust at your death or if you’re unable to manage your financial, healthcare, and legal affairs due to incapacity. A living trust is most appropriate for individuals who have complex financial or personal circumstances, such as substantial assets, a blended family, closely held business interests, or property in other states.
- Health Care Proxy–This is a legal document in which you appoint an agent to legally make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are incapable of making and executing the healthcare decisions stipulated in the proxy. Once the health care proxy is effective, that person continues to make healthcare decisions as long as he or she is legally competent to decide, serving as your health care power of attorney.
- HIPAA Release— A Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, release allows medical professionals to discuss your medical condition with your personal representative. Because of federal privacy requirements on health care professionals, some hospitals and medical professionals won’t disclose information to those not designated as a HIPAA representative.
- Life insurance—To protect your family, especially if you are the main source of income, consider a life insurance policy. These funds can help cover important costs, such as funeral expenses, children and spousal expenses and debts.
- Business Succession Plan—For many business owners, their single biggest asset is the business itself. This plan will ensure that the business passes on to children or others actively involved, while others who are not involved still receive the intended compensation.
- Gifts—You can transfer assets that will significantly appreciate, and would drive up estate taxes if still in your name when you die. In order to reduce the size of the taxable estate, you can transfer assets each year up to the level of the annual gift-tax exclusion. Another option could be a charitable remainder trust, which can allow you to direct income from certain appreciated properties to a designated charity, with possible tax advantages.
PlanMyAffairs gives you a safe, secure organizational system to store information about your Estate Plan, so your loved ones will have quick access to the information if ever needed.