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Estate Planning: Protecting Your Legacy for Future Generations

In order to protect your legacy for your heirs, you should assemble the right team of professionals to create your estate plan. Aside from an estate planning attorney, you may need the services of a certified public accountant (CPA) and licensed insurance agent. Larger estates may require valuation experts and trust services. Your estate planning attorney understands the variety of information needed to create a sound estate plan.

Don’t Procrastinate

The drawbacks of procrastination can be severe and sometimes unrecoverable. Heirs can incur unnecessary taxes and lose significant percentages of wealth. A business owner may unknowingly create discord with existing partners and vendor relationships. A simple will can’t effectively address a complex estate. If you haven’t already, it’s time to take the first step and meet with an estate planning attorney to create your unique plan. During this process, you will identify which additional professional services can best benefit your planning.

Both Spouses Need to Be Involved in Their Estate Planning

More women, particularly in younger generations, are taking the reins of financial discussion and decision-making. However, many women in the baby boomer generation had little to do with financial planning. Regardless, most women will outlive men. This means that inheritable assets between spouses often pass from a man to a woman. Therefore, a woman’s estate plan controls the ultimate disposition of family wealth, and it’s imperative to plan accordingly. The involvement of both spouses is crucial for smooth transitions — one spouse may need more information to understand estate planning and finances. Both spouses must know their estate planning attorney, CPA, and other relevant planners.

Older Estate Planning Documents Require a Review

Just because you already created your estate plan doesn’t mean that changes in your life and your family don’t affect it. A periodic review of your estate plan with your attorney and accountant can catch minor errors that may otherwise lead to catastrophic problems.

  • A missing signature or incomplete document can cause your estate plan to fail you when you need it most.
  • Wills, trusts, pensions, insurance policies, and investments may contain beneficiaries that should be changed due to additions to your family or deaths.
  • An unfinished divorce decree can derail your plans to pass wealth to your children, especially with remarriages. Blended families have competing interests in your property.
  • Your executor (personal representative of your estate) may be in failing health and no longer able to administer your estate plan. You may need to remove this person or add a contingent executor.
  • Significant purchases or sales affect your finances, which affects your estate plan.

It’s essential to go over details with your attorney and accountant every few years to ensure your documents represent your most current situation and desires.

Fair and Equal Are Not the Same Thing

Even if you have a simple estate plan, documents that divide your assets equally among heirs can have devastating consequences within a family. If, for example, there are two adult children and one is involved in a family business, a parent may still want to divide the business fifty-fifty. However, if the child pursuing their own professional goals leaves their sibling doing all the work to maintain the family business, it may be unfair.

Your estate planning attorney may suggest a buy-sell agreement allowing one child to take control of the business. The other child may receive a life insurance policy payout as compensation, creating a fair distribution of assets moving forward. This life insurance policy is generally tax-free to the beneficiary. Therefore, the more independent child receives an asset without burdening the business’s financial and tax obligations and equalizes the remaining child’s inheritance. Your estate planning attorney may require the services of a corporate attorney or insurance specialist to ensure every aspect is considered.

Assets with Changing Values

Assets like raw land, fine art, jewelry, and stocks, are factors to consider, as the IRS will establish a value for your estate at the time of your death. Professional reappraisals of these assets, like estate document review, can help you keep your asset distribution as equal as possible under changing conditions.

Estate planning can be complex, and life changes create the potential for mistakes. Assembling the right group of professionals will help you meet your estate planning goals.

We hope you found this article helpful. Contact our office at 1 (800) 680-1717 and schedule a consultation to discuss your legal matters. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you.

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