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Estate Planning 101

Sep 13, 2021

Estate Planning 101The pandemic has reinforced the importance of planning for the future, especially when it comes to finances. You never know what the future holds, so take the time to map out an estate plan now, should things take a turn for the worse at some point in the future.

If you're unfamiliar with the term "estate plan," or if it's something you've been meaning to get around to but haven't had a chance to just yet, we've broken down what estate planning really is, and how you can make one for yourself.

So, what is estate planning?

An estate plan is more than just signing a will. It is a comprehensive plan that includes considerations for one's lifetime and one's death, meaning it's inclusive of choosing decision makers to make health or financial decisions for you should you become incapacitated, and planning for your death by choosing who will inherit certain assets, appointing a guardian for your children, selecting an executor to administer your estate, and appointing a trustee to oversee any trusts that may be created after your death.
If you do not have an estate plan, the default provisions of state law will govern how your assets pass at death, so it is important that you maintain control over these decisions, as you have worked your whole life to establish and acquire these assets.

If you're looking to start estate planning, ask yourself these four questions to get the ball rolling:

  1. Who do I want to make healthcare or financial decisions on my behalf if I become ill?
  2. Who do I trust to care for my children if I'm unable to?
  3. Who should inherent my assets if/when I pass?
  4. Would I like to include a charitable organization in my estate plan? If so, which organization would I like to give to?

You'll also need to find a qualified estate planning attorney to help you draft or update any estate planning documents, so it's critical you do some thorough research—whether online or by sourcing word-of-mouth recommendations from friends, family, and other trusted financial advisors—to determine who you can trust and feel secure planning for such an event with. Before you meet with your selected planner, prepare by collecting copies of your current financial documents so you can be efficient with your time.

But, it's important to remember that once you've compiled your estate plan, your work is not done. You should revisit it regularly (either annually or every 3-5 years) to ensure it reflects your most current wishes and that it is in line with current laws. You should make a special note to revisit the plan whenever there is a major change in your circumstances or life, such as marriage, divorce, birth, death, change in finances, change in health, or a big move.

Planning for your imminent death certainly isn't the most exciting or glamorous thing, but it is a necessary, financially responsible step you must take to ensure that your hard-earned assets and closest loved ones are taken care of per your wishes after your passing. Reach out to a trusted financial advisor with any questions that may arise throughout the process—no matter how big or small—as this is something you want to make sure you do the right way.

Erin Elis 
Erin Ellis
Accredited Financial Counselor ®
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