Do you have a Trust or a Will? If you do, when was the last time you updated them? No matter your age or income, establishing an estate plan is an act of empowerment. Just like in any other process, knowing your options is how you’ll be more successful.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to some powerful estate planning tools to leverage. With them, you’ll feel more confident navigating the process of setting up an ideal estate plan. You’ll rest easy knowing that your legacy is protected, and that you’ve taken the steps to maximize what you can leave to your loved ones. Top three estate planning tools to leverage include:
3 Powerful Estate Planning Tools
If this is your first time planning an estate, then you’ve likely tried to do a quick search on the internet. There is a wealth of information available, so much so that it can be difficult to pare it down to just the essentials. If you feel like you’ve been getting an information overload, then you’ve come to the right place. Here at Trust & Will, we believe in keeping things simple. Here are 3 powerful estate planning tools that you can equip yourself with from the get-go.
1. Estate Planning Documents
The first tool we’ll introduce is the concept of the estate planning document. Proper documentation is a necessary part of estate planning - it’s what makes your plan legally binding. You’ve likely heard the terms “Trust” and “Will” before. These documents or the basic building blocks of estate planning, and it’s important to know the variations of each. Be sure to verse yourself with the following types of estate planning documents:
A trust is a legally-binding document that serves as a holding place of your assets. Various assets that you own, such as cash, real estate, or other belongings, can be placed under ownership of your trust. Upon your eventual passing, these assets will be transferred from your trust to your beneficiary or beneficiaries. Your beneficiary could be a loved one, such a spouse or a child, or it could even be a charity of your choosing.
Trusts and Wills go hand-in-hand. A will is another legally-binding document that specifies how your assets placed in your trust above will be distributed. It can detail who will be inheriting which asset, including how much, the frequency, when, as well as other conditions that you would like to be met. For example, let’s say you have a fund set up for your child. If you were to pass away, you don’t want this fund to be accessible to your child immediately. Instead, you want a small percentage distributed to your child on a monthly basis, after they’ve reached a certain age. All of these conditions and requirements would be documented in your will.
A living will is also referred to as an advanced directive. It comes into play in the rare case that you were to become incapacitated. This means that although you are still alive, you are no longer able to move, speak, or make your own decisions. Through the will, your loved ones will understand how to fulfill your wishes. This can include desired treatments or specific directives if certain medical circumstances were to happen. A living will helps your loved ones feel confident that they are making the right decision on your behalf.
Much like the living will, a living trust is a trust that is active while you’re still alive. Instead, you’ll maintain control over the trust and have access to all of your property and assets. However, the trust will then oversee the process of transferring these assets to your beneficiaries, in a legally-controlled environment. Going along with the example used previously, you can set up your living trust so that your child will receive money each month once they turn into an adult, regardless of whether or not you are alive.
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament is a legally-binding document that names the executor of your estate plan. This is usually an individual that you trust, who is put in charge of making sure that your final will is executed as planned.
2. Estate Planning Personnel - Powers of Attorney
Along with your estate planning documentation, consider adding personnel to your estate planning team. What does this mean, and why would someone need personnel? An estate plan includes legally-binding documents, but you’ll need some trustworthy people to make sure things get properly executed when you’re no longer able to. This is where your powers of attorney come in.
A financial power of attorney is someone who will make sure that your trust and will are carried out as you wish. In case there are any blind spots in your estate plan, this person is also in charge of making financial decisions on your behalf.
You can also appoint a medical power of attorney in your estate plan. This is the person who would carry out the directives you implemented in your living will. This empowers them to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, such as whether or not to administer certain drugs, or whether you should remain on life support.
As you might imagine, you’ll want to appoint powers of attorney that you can trust without any hesitation. Although highly personal, appointing the right power of attorney can be tricky. To put frankly, it can even become a political decision when family dynamics are involved. We often see individuals furrowing their brows, trying to find a balance between finding the most diplomatic option while serving their own needs. This is because although your estate plan is about you, the people it really affects are your loved ones. We urge you not to rush this step, and know that it is okay to change who you name your power of attorney throughout your life.
3. Estate Planning Software
In this day and age, we should be grateful for what technology does for us. It takes processes that were traditionally lengthy, complicated, and expensive and turns them into something that is more accessible to all. Estate planning is no exception.
Estate planning software is now widely available as SaaS (Software-as-a-service) platforms, which now helps individuals create an estate plan more easily than ever before. Users can easily navigate the estate planning process by following prompts. Online fillable forms are provided so that legal documents, such as trusts and wills, can be created from the comfort of your own home. These sites also offer online education and articles so that you can get a good understanding of what you’re doing. Further, these estate planning software services also provide a secured portal, through which you can easily upload and manage documents at the click of a button.
Knowing your options and being aware of tools is the best way for you to create an effective estate plan that maximizes benefits for your loved ones. The top three tools that you should know for starters are estate planning documents, powers of attorney, and estate planning software. As mentioned, software has made estate planning easy, painless and affordable. That’s why you have less and less of an excuse if you haven’t established an estate plan already. Here at Trust & Will, we offer all of these great benefits. In addition, we believe in empowering our clients so that they know all of the tools that they can leverage.