Estate planning can be intimidating if you don’t have enough information at hand to make crucial decisions about your future and the future of your loved ones. Consider these nine practical tips for successful estate planning:
- Keep your important documents like your will or trust up-to-date. Keep your legal residence address, marriage status, children, guardian list, etc. updated.
- Keep track of beneficiaries for all of your IRAs, qualified plans and insurance policies. If you don't, they may be going to someone you no longer wish to receive them.
- Maximize the liquidity of your estate. Liquidity is defined as the ability to quickly turn assets into cash. Without sufficient cash to pay taxes, funeral, and other expenses, your family may have to sell illiquid assets - such as a family business or other property - at an inopportune time.
- Maintain an appropriate mix of investment risk. Over time, more risky investments like stocks and mutual funds should be moved into safe and stable investments such as annuities.
- Name a dependable executor and/or trustee. Executors are called upon to collect assets, pay obligations, and distribute your assets. Your trustee must enforce all the provisions of any trusts you created. Choose people who have the knowledge, integrity and stamina in the face of pressure from family members to fulfill these obligations.
- If you have minor children, consider naming one guardian for your minor children and a separate guardian for the property you've left to support them. The best guardian for your children may not be the most effective money manager you know.
- Estate planning for your spouse. If your net worth is high enough, your estate may be subject to taxes. A simple estate plan can potentially save your loved ones hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes.
- Leaving the right assets to the right people. Make sure proper financial management systems are in place for people such as special needs children, teenagers, or other dependents.
- Plan, plan, plan. While estate planning is important for everyone, it is most important for business owners, who must plan for the succession and/or buyout of their business.
This is just an overview of estate planning issues that should be addressed by you and your attorney. Remember, every situation is different and your estate plan is not going to look exactly like your neighbor’s estate plan. It is best to contact a knowledgeable estate planning attorney to assist you in protecting everyone you love and everything you have.