No matter what your marital status, an estate plan can help make sure your wishes are clear. It outlines how your assets will be handled at the time of your passing, and how medical and legal decisions will be made on your behalf if you are unable to make them yourself. Three things to consider:
- An estate plan is not a will. A will is part of an estate plan. But, an estate plan should also contain other legal documents such as a durable power of attorney, a living will and medical directives, including a healthcare proxy.
- Beneficiaries change. Birth, death, marriage, divorce – all of these things may impact plans to transfer your assets. It’s important to periodically check that your beneficiary designations are correct. Remember, minor children need someone to act on their behalf, and can’t inherit assets directly. Designated beneficiaries in certain policies, like life insurance, supercede anything otherwise stated in your will.
- Trusts are estate planning tools. A trust may offer tax advantages and a certain amount of control over how and to whom your assets are distributed – for example, providing for a child’s education over time. Plan to give money to other relatives or charities during your lifetime? A trust can help make that happen. Talk to a financial advisor about the many different types of trusts and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Estate plans should be considered by anyone with something to give. Not only can they ensure your assets go to the right people, they can also help you feel confident your wishes are understood in case someone needs to speak on your behalf. Discuss your situation with a financial advisor today, and consider consulting with your attorney and tax professional as well.