Creating an estate plan can feel overwhelming for some. But it can bring peace of mind if you understand the purpose and function of the most important parts. Many people aren’t aware of all the ways an estate plan works to ensure individuals have protected their legacy and their loved ones. There are many features to an estate plan as it is designed to cover all the bases, including protecting your financial property and assets, your heirs, and your final wishes. Not all of them will be necessary for every person.
Let’s walk through the ways an estate plan can do these things and what you’ll need in place to make them happen. Individual circumstances will bring clarity to which factors and documentation must be considered. And they may change over time. Our goal here is to bring the most important aspects of estate planning to light to encourage people to take action by simplifying the vital elements of the process.
Establish and Protect Your Beneficiaries
Knowing who you want to benefit through the inheritance of your assets is often the easy part. Knowing how to protect them from paying additional taxes and fees may be a little more complex. Before anybody can begin receiving from your 401K, life insurance, real estate, and other assets, you must first designate beneficiaries or file a pay-on-death provision to all accounts. If you do not designate beneficiaries and have no will, assets will go to your estate and be shared amongst your heirs in a way that the probate court deems fit.
Creating a will as a directive about how you want your wealth spread is a great first step. Working with a qualified Georgia estate planning attorney will ensure your will is enforceable. And they will suggest additional protections such as a trust to protect your assets, streamline the process for your beneficiaries, and make educated decisions about gifting and distributing funds so they can receive the greatest benefit without paying taxes and fees.
If you care for loved ones with special needs, you will want to consider the available resources to protect their quality of life once you’re gone. An estate planning attorney can talk to you about your options regarding establishing physical and financial care for vulnerable adults and children with special needs in your estate plan.
Establish Decision Makers
You know the people you trust to make decisions in your best interest. An important part of estate planning is delegating who will ensure your wishes are followed in your absence. Without this important step, the courts may grant that power to somebody you would not wish to have that responsibility and authority.
Selecting the executor of your will (or the trustee if you have created a living trust) will ensure the proper administration of your final wishes.
Establish Transfer of Power
When decision-making power is out of your hands, you’ll need the right documentation in place to pass the baton. The directives you’ll create to be enacted upon your death or incapacitation are a will, an advance healthcare directive, and a power of attorney. This is where you detail your wishes and choose the person to enact them on your behalf. These are a vital part of planning for the future and are often put to use before your death, ensuring that your financial and healthcare wishes are carried out even if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate them at the time.
Without these designations, financial and healthcare actions might be taken against your best interests. Additionally, if critical care decisions are on the table and your loved ones aren’t aware of your wishes, it may cause turmoil, strife, and heartache coming to a decision that they may have otherwise had peace with if they had your express wishes in writing.
If you run a business, you may also need estate planning documents to correctly transfer your company’s ownership and leadership as you see fit.
Establish Security and Communication
Once you have completed the documents that make up your estate plan, you will want to secure them and communicate with your loved ones about where to access that vital information when needed. It’s equally important to involve them by discussing and reviewing your plans as needed over time. This prevents surprises and misunderstandings and will help reinforce your peace of mind that your wishes are understood and will be carried out.
Need Help Streamlining Your Estate Plan?
We can help! Many people put off creating their estate plan until later because all the steps to complete one can feel daunting. But if any of the above information resonates with you, you need to create a legal, enforceable estate plan sooner than later. Smith Barid can help you understand the exact steps you need to take and will work collaboratively to help get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.