If you have a current will, consider yourself ahead of most Americans when it comes to estate planning. In fact, a recent survey found that an alarming 70% of Americans don’t have this most basic estate conservation document.1With a will, you can direct the probate courts that oversee the distribution of your estate. You can also name legal guardians for minor children and their inherited assets.
A will is certainly the best place to start. However, the goal of any estate strategy should be a smooth transfer of wealth to your heirs, and it may take more than simply having a current will.
Powers of AttorneyPowers of attorney are used to designate someone to make financial and/or medical decisions on your behalf. Powers of attorney can be specific, designating your agent to act for you only in certain circumstances, or they can be general, giving your agent the authority to make any and all decisions on your behalf. You may want to create separate powers of attorney for finances and medical care.
Beneficiary DesignationsIt’s a good idea to make sure that the beneficiary designation forms for your retirement plans and life insurance policies are properly completed and accurate. Retirement plan assets and life insurance proceeds are generally exempt from the probate process and transfer directly to the designated beneficiaries.
TrustsA trust is a separate legal entity that holds your assets and distributes them according to your wishes. Some trusts can help reduce estate taxes or place conditions on heirs who inherit your property. Others can be used to make charitable donations, to provide for family members with special needs, and to help prevent posthumous challenges from disgruntled parties.
The use of trusts can involve a complex web of tax rules and regulations. You should consider the counsel of an experienced estate planning professional before implementing such strategies.
Even a comprehensive estate strategy may be of limited use if it is out of date. You can help ensure the effectiveness of your strategy by periodically reviewing your will, powers of attorney, and beneficiary designation forms to verify that they are current.
1) LegalZoom.com, 2010
The information in this article is not intended as tax or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek tax or legal advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Emerald. © 2010 Emerald.
|Beacon Retirement Planning Group, financial planning, San Diego, Carlsbad, Southern California|
|6005 HIdden Valley Dr. Suite 220||•||Carlsbad, CA||•||92011|
|Phone: 866-800-7789||•||Fax: 760-692-0775|
Beacon Retirement Planning Group, Inc.6005 Hidden Valley Rd. Suite 220
Carlsbad, Ca. 92011
Toll Free: 1-866-800-7789
Ca Ins. License # 0E89558