“Strategic planning will help you fully uncover your available options, set priorities for them, and define the methods to achieve them.” – Robert J. Mckain
Effective estate planning relies on the details. When it comes to planning for end-of-life care and making posthumous arrangements, it is understandably easy for one to become overwhelmed with the amount of decisions to be made. However, many fail to see the bigger picture: Leaving behind a well-crafted estate plan will provide security, contentment, and satisfaction. It allows one to honor their own values as well as the needs of their family and friends. Even with estate planning basics in place (i.e. a last will and testament), one is likely to overlook other essentials. By honing in on the fine points of an estate plan, it is highly likely that your attention to detail will pay off in the future.
Medical Treatment Preferences
An advance directive outlines medical preferences and allows you to select a healthcare agent, who is authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf, with your preferred level of decision-making power. This means your healthcare agent’s authority can be general (they can make decisions on your behalf, using their own discretion), or limited (they can only make decisions based on preferences you have already authorized).
Childcare and Pet Care Provisions
A major reason for creating an estate plan is to help care for those who need you when you are no longer living. Children and pets fall squarely into this category. One of the greatest gifts you can leave behind is security, whether by allotting funds for care or doing your part to ensure that the appropriate caretakers are selected. A last will and testament allows one to list the individual they would prefer to be the surviving child’s caretaker. While this is not the final say, it will contribute to the decision during court deliberation. One may also list values, beliefs, and ideals with which they would like their child to be raised.
Additionally, a trust (revocable or irrevocable) may be a suitable option to ensure childcare and pet care needs are met. With assets in a trust, one can ensure they will only be dispersed according to your wishes. As such, you may decide to disperse funds for a particular purpose, on a specific date, and in specific allocations.
Properly Funded Trusts
When including a trust in an estate plan, it is critical to make sure the trust is funded. This means that even if a trust has been created, the corresponding assets (accounts, properties, etc.) must be allocated to the trust. This can be done by transferring the titles from your name (or beneficiaries’ names) to the trust. Properly funding trusts is key in avoiding lengthy and costly probate court proceedings, which can cause a headache for surviving loved ones. An estate planning specialist has the ability to perform and explain the right course of action for your circumstances.
Business Succession Plan
If you are a business owner, you have likely invested a considerable amount of time and energy into your venture. If you were to die or become incapacitated, would you prefer for your business to continue operating? If so, who would continue to run your business? These are just some of the questions a business owner should ask when crafting an estate plan.
A business succession plan allows one to map out long-term business decisions, which may include a Buy-Sell Agreement (an agreement outlining the purchase/transfer of ownership of a business) or arrangements for an heir to inherit the company. Needless to say, a business succession plan is an absolute necessity for those who want to see their enterprise live on.