Estate Planning

Estate Planning: Common-Sense Preparation

Few of us want to think about end-of-life decisions while we are still living healthy lives, but it’s essential to put an estate plan in place to ensure your personal wishes are honored in the event you are unable to give direction.

If you pass away without having proper estate planning documents, the courts are responsible for dividing assets, creating complications for your heirs. Similarly, if you become incapacitated and cannot act on your own behalf, courts will decide who has the power to manage your care, your financial affairs and even guardianship of your minor children.

It can seem overwhelming, but here is some common-sense advice for beginning the estate planning process:

  • Ensure your will is up to date and directs distribution of assets upon your death. This is particularly important if you have not updated your will following life changes, such as divorce and remarriage, retirement or acquisition of property.
  • Establish a trust for controlling and distributing assets, either during your lifetime or following your death. Trusts can be very helpful to avoid probate (needing to prove the intent of your will in court), which can be a significant burden on both your survivors and your financial assets.
  • Designate beneficiaries or review designations to ensure they are in line with your current wishes. Assets passing by beneficiary designations are not subject to the probate process.

Other considerations to note include addressing charitable priorities in your estate planning documents, succession plans for any owned business entities and foreign or out-of-state property ownership.

Learn more about estate planning by downloading our comprehensive checklist.

PLEASE NOTE: JNBA is neither an attorney nor accountant, and no portion of the above should be construed as legal or accounting advice. All legal and accounting issues should be addressed with the legal and accounting professionals of your choosing.