Do I Need a High Net Worth to Have an Estate Plan in Place?

The answer is no, even the most basic plan protects your family and ensures your financial goals are met after you die. Your attorney will help guide you with the best plan no matter your level of financial wealth.

There are multiple elements to an estate plan. Such as a:

  • will;
  • power of attorney (someone you trust)
  • health-care proxy or living will
  • a trust may also make sense for some people

Your attorney will also take into account both federal and state laws when developing your plan.

A good start is to take inventory of your assets.
You will want to compile items such as investments, retirement savings, insurance policies, and any real estate holdings. Don’t forget to include any business interests. You should also carefully consider:

Who should inherit your assets?
Who is the best person to handle your financial affairs if you are not able to, even if it’s a temporary situation?
You may, at some point, have medical challenges and choosing someone you trust in advance to make some of those crucial decisions, will ultimately give you peace of mind and avoid unnecessary distress.

Everyone needs a will.
Your will makes it very clear as to how you would like your assets distributed when you die. Do you have children? A will allows you to choose who should be named guardians of your children so that you know they are cared for in the manner you want for them. It’s important you discuss this with the guardians you choose before you proceed.

Most do not realize that it can be very costly to your heirs if you die “intestate”, which means dying without a will.

Trusts are not solely for the wealthy.
Trust can be confusing and to drill it down to laymen’s terms, they are legal mechanisms that allow you to dictate how, upon your death, your assets will be distributed. Without a trust, your heirs will incur more costs such as estate and gift taxes which are reduced when you take those extra steps. Not to mention the hassle of the probate court and the delay that inevitably comes along with it. If done correctly, they also have a higher level of protection from creditors and other potential lawsuits.

An open discussion about your estate plans with your heirs in advance will also help alleviate confusion later.
Your passing will already be a stressful time for your loved ones and the events following your death can be an additional source of tension. When you’re clear about your intentions, you will help alleviate some of this strain when it’s time for your assets to be distributed.

It is also important to know that federal estate tax exemption changes regularly, which means it’s even more important to seek the help of an experienced estate attorney.

Want to remember your favorite charity?
You can set it up so that the money you regularly donate, continues to provide help to a charity that is near and dear to your heart. When you donate to a charitable gift fund or foundation, your investment actually grows tax-free and you can continue to have a voice as to which the charities receive this support both before and after you die.