Is it just me, or do you have clients that talk themselves out of hiring you? In my experience, there is an unspoken stigma that estate planning is only for the very wealthy, and our firm endlessly strives to remove this false perception through community education, informational booklets, monthly workshops, and our e-newsletters. This is also why we value our partnership with professionals like you. Your expertise serves as a valuable resource for our clients, and we hope that the firm can be valuable to you and your clients as well. When questions about estate planning arise with your clients, please share with them about our 3 Essential Documents for All Families.
1. An up-to-date will or trust
Wills are easy to create, but they require the distribution of assets to go through probate. The probate process often requires a lot of technical paperwork and court appearances, and the resulting legal and court fees are paid from estate property-reducing the amount that’s passed on to heirs.
A trust can be more expensive to set up and requires professional assistance, but it provides benefits that a will cannot. First, when they’re structured properly, trusts will help avoid guardianship or conservatorship if you become incapacitated. A will only works after you’ve died; a trust, by contrast, works all the time, including periods of incapacity before death.
Trusts usually avoid probate, which helps beneficiaries gain access to assets more quickly as well as save time and court fees. Depending on how it’s structured, a trust may also reduce estate taxes owed and can protect an estate from heirs’ creditors.
2. A durable power of attorney
A power of attorney is a written authorization that allows someone else to make financial and legal decisions for a person if that person should become hospitalized, disabled or otherwise incapacitated.
Powers of attorney for property should only be given to trusted individuals, ideally those who are good with financial and legal matters. Medical powers of attorney can be separated and given to someone else, if desired.
3. Updated beneficiary designation forms
Beneficiary designation forms on life insurance policies, 401(k) accounts and other assets will generally override any conflicting provisions within a will or trust. It’s essential to make sure all forms are checked and updated regularly, ideally on an annual basis.
If your client needs more information about the basics of estate planning, please have them call us. We also offer free monthly workshops in our office. These workshops are designed to answer the most frequently asked questions about estate planning as well as provide the attendee with planning options they may not have previously considered. See more information on these workshops below.