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Here's why you shouldn't wait to create an estate strategy

Here's why you shouldn't wait to create an estate strategy

May 22, 2024

Legacy is a significant aspect of any financial strategy. It's important to consider what happens to everything you’ve accumulated—and may continue to accumulate—throughout your lifetime. But far too often, we've seen this as something overlooked. Even as recently as 2023, barely one-third of Americans had wills.

Often, the lack of an estate strategy (even a will) is for a seemingly valid reason: People don't know how to get started. Or they believe it's a complicated process. Or they don't think they have enough assets to need one.

But creating an estate strategy is about more than just knowing what will happen with your stuff. It can help…

  • Manage complexities associated with your estate.
  • Provide a backup decision-maker in case you become incapacitated.
  • Define who you want your beneficiaries to be.
  • Define family members you don’t want to be beneficiaries.
  • Have an approach to what happens to any pets you have.
  • Help manage family infighting after you’re gone.
  • Guide your beneficiaries, and create a structure for your children.
  • Put an outline in place for any scenario where you’re unable to make decisions.

Whether you're newly married, starting a family, or nearing retirement, an estate strategy is likely something on your mind. But even if you're early on in your career and haven't hit any of these milestones, considering an estate strategy can be important.

Some elements of an estate strategy can include a(n)…

  • Last Will & Testament: This document defines your wishes after you pass. This includes naming your executor or a personal representative who would represent your estate before the probate court and outlining what you’d like to happen to any minors or anyone else requiring guardianship (like someone with special needs). A will also describes how you want your property and other assets to be distributed.
  • Financial Power of Attorney: This assigns to someone the right to make financial decisions for you, like signing documents or making financial transactions, should you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to do so yourself.
  • Advance Health Care Directive: This empowers the person you designate to make decisions about your medical treatment, including end-of-life care. In addition, this document often specifies what care and decisions you wish for in certain medical situations.
  • Adding a Trust to your strategy: A trust is an agreement with a set of rules that the creator of the trust (you) puts in place for the person you designate to oversee the trust (the trustee), including how you want your property and possessions to be divided and who you want in charge of that process. Using a trust involves a complex set of tax rules and regulations. A professional who is familiar with the relevant rules and regulations can provide guidance on how a trust could work with your estate.

Another reason why people put off creating an estate strategy is because they think it’s an intensive or complicated process, but it doesn't have to be. Remember, just creating the most basic estate documents can be hugely beneficial for you and your family.

We'd be happy to discuss your estate needs and how we can help you get started.