The Estate Plan Documents Everyone Needs
By Jake Preston
Estate planning is often pushed to the sidelines when it comes to crafting a comprehensive financial plan, probably due to the perceived morbid nature of the discussion. However, having a plan in the event of your incapacitation and/or passing is one of the most important elements of your financial plan. Since August is national Make-A-Will month, we thought it was the perfect time to both emphasize the importance of establishing an estate plan and outline the foundational documents you’ll need to implement the plan.
The Importance of Estate Planning
It is widely reported that 68% of Americans do not have a will. That is a staggering number and goes to show that estate planning is often neglected and thought of as only needed by those with very high net worth.
Quite simply, everyone needs an estate plan. Establishing an estate plan while you are still alive and have your full faculties allows you to be in control of who will inherit your assets and who will be responsible for making important decisions about your health and financial matters. Neglecting to do this means that other parties with no vested interest in fulfilling your wishes (such as the state in which you live) will be the ultimate decision makers.
Below are the 5 non-negotiable, most important estate plan documents everyone needs.
A Last Will & Testament should be the starting point for any estate plan. It is the foundational document that states how you desire your assets to be distributed in the event of your passing.
The will should list your property and assets and should specify who you intend to inherit each asset. These people are often your family and loved ones, such as your spouse and children. By establishing a will and keeping it updated as your financial picture changes, you are ensuring that your assets will be protected and will go to the right people should anything happen to you. This document can also be used to designate guardians for your children.
While beneficiary designations are not literal estate plan documents, they are extremely important to your overall estate plan.
When you set up any type of financial account, such as a bank account, retirement account, or life insurance policy, you will have the option to designate a beneficiary. When this occurs, you are choosing for that person to receive the asset (or a portion of the asset in the event of multiple beneficiaries) and thereby avoiding the probate process and the inclusion of the asset in your estate.
You could also elect to name your estate as the beneficiary of a financial account in which case the asset would later be moved into your Trust for distribution.
It is important to review and update your beneficiary designations at every major life event such as a divorce, birth of a child, retirement, etc.
Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document wherein you appoint a person to act on your behalf in personal, financial, and business-related matters. A general or traditional power of attorney expires upon your incapacitation; therefore, we recommend a Durable Power of Attorney so the person you appoint can continue their role without interruption. This should provide you with peace of mind in the event you are no longer able to manage your affairs.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
Regardless of age, everyone should establish an advance medical directive for instructions in the case of a serious medical event. The advance directive is comprised of two parts, the first being the Healthcare Power of Attorney. This document allows you to appoint a person with the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf. This could be because of a temporary, long-term, or permanent incapacitation. This would be applicable when you are unable to communicate your needs or make decisions independently.
The second part of the advance medical directive is the Living Will. Similar to how a will outlines your desires for the passing of your assets, a living will addresses common medical scenarios and preemptively makes your wishes known. This not only provides you with peace of mind, but also eases the burden on your loved ones and specifically, the person you appoint as your healthcare power of attorney.
Peace of Mind & Leaving a Legacy
These are the 5 most important estate plan documents that everyone should have regardless of age or net worth. Establishing these documents should provide you with peace of mind knowing that your assets will be taken care of in the event of your passing and that your wishes will be respected and adhered to when it comes to healthcare decisions.
Not only will these documents provide you with peace of mind that your plan will come to fruition, but the stress these documents will remove should empower you to continue investing in your family, your church, and your community with the goal of leaving a legacy that goes beyond dollars and cents.
If you would like assistance generating these documents and beginning the estate planning process, please contact us at (540) 345-3891 or email email@example.com. Our financial advisors are qualified to provide you with advice and have connections with estate attorneys who can assist in the process.
Jake Preston, CFP® is a Christian financial planner in Roanoke, VA specializing in comprehensive financial planning and faith-based investing. In addition to serving clients, Jake is the Lead Financial Planner at Beacon Wealth Consultants where he oversees all aspects of financial planning for the company.