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Estate Planning Documents: How important are they?

When you think of retirement, what questions cross your mind? “Do I have enough saved for retirement?” “Is my portfolio growing at a fast-enough rate?” Those are all critical questions to think about, however, many overlook other important aspects of retirement planning. Creating essential estate planning and legal documents is just as important as how well your portfolio performs, as these serve as the foundation of a solid estate plan. An estate plan, in it’s simplest form, consist of legal documents that define our wishes for the only certainty in life, death. By planning ahead for the inevitable, you put your heirs at an advantage when they take over your estate. These documents consist of Living Wills, Powers of Attorney, a Last Will and Testament, and Trusts. Taking a look at these documents closer will provide insight to how important these documents really are in creating a comprehensive retirement plan.

Living Wills and Power of Attorney

A Living Will is a written document that details one’s desires regarding medical treatment in the event they are no longer able to consent themselves. This includes what medical treatment doctors can provide (or withhold), resuscitation, and ventilation in the event of terminal illness or unconsciousness. Defining these preferences help families avoid conflict and lessen the burden of making difficult judgement calls when the time comes. It is hard enough to talk about the decisions to be made but having a plan will lessen the burden for a family in times of need. Many families choose to appoint a Power of Attorney whom they trust to make these important decisions for the impaired person.

Last Will

Understandably so, this will likely be the most difficult document to create, but the most necessary for property and monetary disbursement upon death. Upon creating one’s Last Will, you will want to choose an executor and beneficiaries accordingly. First, realize that this will is about more than money. This document will create your legacy. The Last Will includes what powers the executor of your will has, who will inherit your property, and how your property will ultimately be transferred to your beneficiaries.

Trusts

Creating a trust is much more than a document to put conditions on how and when your assets are distributed after you die. There are benefits that go unnoticed that can be very advantageous to you before passing, and to your heirs after you pass.  While living, assets in trust are protected from creditors and lawsuits. This becomes especially valuable when one’s profession is susceptible to lawsuits, for example, physicians who are prone to malpractice claims. Upon death, the benefits of the creation of a trust can be used to reduce estate taxes, as the assets no longer belong to the grantor, rather, they become legal property of the trustee to hold for the beneficiaries.

For example, some opt to buy life insurance and put it in the trust’s name. Life insurance proceeds generally aren’t taxable. But after you pass away they could be included in your estate, which would be subject to taxation. By transferring the ownership to the trust, the death benefits would not be included in your estate.

Retirement is the most important event in life to plan for, however, it does not need to be as intimidating as it seems. Please call our office for a complimentary consultation for further information.