Yep, it seems many folks do not think they have enough in terms of assets to justify an estate plan? With the federal estate tax exemption currently resting at an all-time high $5.43 million - per spouse - you may share this sentiment.
Resist the temptation.
The true meaning of "estate planning" is protecting everyone you love and everything you have.
And that means taking care not to "burden" them at your passing.
Leave the question of "am I rich enough" to the Rolling Stones and their classic "Beast of Burden."
For support on this notion, I turn to the Saint Paul Pioneer Press and its recent article titled “Your money: Wealthy or not, you need an estate plan.”
That is clear enough, yes?
The original article notes that everyone needs an estate plan.
In fact, here are a few of the pertinent points for you to ponder:
1. There is More to Estate Planning than Just a Will. The article reminds us that more is required above and beyond a will, if you want to make your wishes known to your family and friends. Rather, a will is but one component of a thoroughly and well-thought-out estate plan.
Your estate planning attorney can help you with other pieces, to include powers of attorney, health care directives, life insurance policy beneficiary designations, and trusts. He or she is essential when it comes to making sure you have everything covered, up-to-date, and in compliance with the law (now and later).
2. Take Time to Consider a Personal Representative. If you pass away without naming a personal representative (also known as an executor), the court will appoint an individual tasked with distributing your assets. But if you name one yourself, then you can discuss this responsibility with them now.
As a result, you can answer all of his or her questions and determine whether he or she can do the job when required.
Better to vett that now.
3. Create a Will or Let a Judge Give Away Your Estate. Remember that without a will, the assets in your estate may be distributed by a probate judge according to the state probate process.
This process is not only expensive, but takes months and sometimes years to complete.
There may be avoidable taxes that you could have dealt with in a will, as well as the opportunity to choose who gets what.
4. Do Not Let Your Estate Plan Grow Moss! A "Rolling Stone" gathers no moss. [I just could not resist. Sorry.]
The article advises you to review your estate plan on a regular basis.
We recommend every two years, which just happens to coincide with the bi-annual "estate planning review reminder" letter we send to each of our clients via first class usps.
Also, talk with your estate planning attorney if you experience some sort of major life event, such as the birth of a child or grandchild, a death in the family or of one of your heirs, marriages or divorces, or a move to a different state.
An experienced estate planning attorney will have the "been-there-done-that" to assist you with other strategies to lower or eliminate your tax liability and the expenses of probate. This will give you and your family peace of mind and prevent some of the stress that will result at your passing.
So, how do you find an "experienced" estate planning attorney?
First, ask around. Friends, family and other professional advisors are trustworthy sources.
Second, conduct an "organic" search on "Google" for "estate planning" near you (e.g., "estate planning Overland Park KS".
Third, either way, verify. Check out the education, experience, ratings and client reviews of any attorney before you contact him or her.
In fact, I use both of these services to thoroughly vett attorneys before referring members of our "client" family for legal help.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: Saint Paul Pioneer Press (June 28, 2015) “Your money: Wealthy or not, you need an estate plan”