A Basic Guide to Planning Your Estate

August 22, 2018
A Basic Guide to Planning Your Estate article photo
A Basic Guide to Planning Your Estate
Most people have heard of estate planning, however many do not understand the full scope of what estate planning entails, or the proper methods and documents required for a legally-enforceable estate plan. Having an Estate Plan in place can be the difference between leaving behind a ready inheritance or years of legal issues for your loved ones after you’ve passed away. In certain cases, estate planning can mean the difference between receiving potentially life-saving medical treatment or not.

What is Estate Planning?
Estate Planning is a process involving the preparation of your financial and physical assets, medical wishes, and more in anticipation of your death or other possible incapacitation. It’s a concept as old as death itself, and something that everybody should consider at some point in their life – but many people who should have an Estate Plan still do not. If you find yourself asking, “I’m not old or sick, why would I need an Estate Plan?” you may be surprised by the answers.

Do I Need an Estate Plan?
It is a common misconception that the elderly and sick, or people with a family to protect, are the only groups who need to worry about Estate Plans. While it is important for these people to have Estate Plans, it is also important for nearly every legal adult to have some form or another of Estate Planning in place.

Estate Plans are commonly prepared for:
  • Seniors and People with Medical Concerns – Estate Planning is particularly important for seniors and people with medical concerns for a multitude of reasons. Your existing Will may need to be updated, you may want to establish a living trust to handle financial concerns, and you may also need an Advanced Healthcare Directive depending on your medical wishes.   
  • High Asset Concerns – Though it doesn’t apply to most people, if your estate totals more than about $5.5 million, the inheritance of that estate can be taxed up to 40% of its total value. For proper dispensation of your assets, Estate Planning is absolutely critical.    
  • Estate Planning and Retirement – Estate Planning and Retirement often go hand-in-hand. Though it is inadvisable to wait until retirement age to start looking at Estate Planning, it is one of the issues that is commonly discussed when planning retirement. Government benefits and personal funds are typically around as a fallback during retirement, but a well-built Estate Plan will ensure that you leave ample resources for any potential beneficiaries.  
  • Family Concerns – In a family situation, it is absolutely essential that both you and your significant other have individual Wills. There are mountains of red tape regarding how estates with no Will are dispersed in the United States legal system. If you and/or your spouse pass away without a Will, a judge can rule that your money, assets, and even your children should go to the care of someone other than who you intended.  
  • Caring for your Spouse or Life Partner – Though modern laws allow for greater portability of assets upon the death of a significant other or spouse, it is not advisable to rely on that transfer alone. Establishing trusts and other Estate paperwork helps to circumvent hefty estate taxes, protect asset appreciation, and more. Otherwise, your spouse could be facing a court distribution of your estate which may not line up with your last wishes.  
  • All Legal Adults – Though you may not yet need a Will, there are still some documents that you should have in order as soon as you become a legal adult. Granting a trusted friend or family member Durable Power of Attorney or an Advanced Medical Directive allow your financial or legal transactions and medical wishes to be carried out by your POA in the event of your incapacitation. 
Call an Estate Planning Professional
So, who needs an Estate Plan? If you want your final wishes to be carried out according to plan, you do. It’s never too early to create an Estate Plan – and the consequences of creating one too late are dire.

Call the investment professionals at the MHV Investment & Retirement Center.  Our number is 845.336.4444, ext. 3166 or 3126.  You can also email us at april.stoddard@cunamutual.com.  We can help you get started on the path to financial success.

FR-2176165.1-0718-0820
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Representatives are neither tax advisors nor attorneys. For information regarding your specific tax situation, please consult a tax professional. For legal questions, including a discussion about estate planning, please consult your attorney.