“Estate planning is an essential part of an individual’s personal finances. This is true no matter how wealthy a person is.”
Estate planning is a process in which a person details how their money and other assets should be managed during life and after their death.
WMUR’s recent article, “Money Matters: Importance of estate planning,” starts with some basics. An estate includes all of the property that you own. It is the outright ownership or ownership you share with someone else, like your home, bank accounts, investments and heirlooms. Managing these assets through all of your life events is the objective. Even if you’re incapacitated, you have a plan in place so your finances are supervised. Along those lines, is determining the type of medical care you want to receive, if you can’t communicate those wishes. This is done with a healthcare directive.
Here are a few other items that you need to consider with the help of a qualified estate planning attorney:
Financial plan. You should have a firm grasp of your finances and your family situation.
Will. The key document that all plans should contain. A will spells out the property you wish to leave to family, friends, and organizations. You should also name a personal representative to manage the probate process.
Guardianship. Your will should also designate guardians for your minor children, so you can say who will rear your children, if you and your spouse both die.
Directives. This includes durable powers of attorney for finances and health care. You can name individuals who you trust to take handle your finances and make health care decisions, if you’re unable to do so. Without these documents in place, the court will appoint someone to manage your finances. This could be someone who is unfamiliar with you and your situation.
Trusts. A trust lets funds be managed by a person or group for the benefit of others, pursuant to the instructions in the trust document. Blended families, families that include children with special needs, and situations where control over the funds for an extended period is needed, are all potential scenarios for a trust.
Beneficiary Designations. Life insurance proceeds and retirement accounts will pass via beneficiary designations, so these should be current and aligned with your estate plan.
Funeral plans. You can leave specific instructions about your final arrangements, such as being buried or cremated, as well as electing to donate your organs.
Creating an estate plan can give you peace of mind. Your family will also be relieved of the stress that comes with making choices when they don’t know your wishes. If you fail to create an estate plan and have no documents, the state will provide a plan for you. However, it might something you would not like.
Review your plans periodically and work with a qualified estate planning attorney.
Reference: WMUR (June 1, 2017 “Money Matters: Importance of estate planning”