A comprehensive estate plan offers many benefits, from protecting surviving spouses, ensuring one’s wishes for medical care are followed, or reducing estate taxes. While the primary focus of an estate plan is different for every individual, reports the article “A good estate plan important” from The Record-Courier, there are common benefits for everyone concerned.
A good estate plan protects individuals and families before death by protecting assets for the use of an incapacitated person by placing them in a trust managed by a responsible trustee. An estate plan allows you to designate an agent to make health and financial decisions during incapacity. It will enable you to develop a retirement strategy by assessing and organizing your assets and financial needs.
With an estate plan in place, a deceased person’s family is spared the burden of making difficult decisions, including when or if to withhold life support treatment or how to handle a loved one’s remains. These decisions can be made in advance through the estate plan, so the family knows their loved one’s wishes, making a difficult time a little less stressful.
Clearly and transparently expressing goals and wishes for the final distribution of one’s estate removes the emotions and potential conflict associated all too often with the division of money and other assets, including personal effects.
An organized and funded estate plan ensures that the family is protected. If the right steps are taken, there will be enough money to pay bills and other living expenses, financial affairs will be organized, and accounts will be accessible to loved ones immediately without waiting for probate and the court’s permission. Guardians for minor children are appointed, and uncertainty needs not make their grief and trauma worse. Special needs children and adults are protected with a trust to supplement their needs in addition to government benefits, and the education of young adults is planned for with a college fund.
A comprehensive estate plan prepared in tandem with a business succession plan is crucial for business owners. Without a succession plan and estate plan, the business can fall apart after the departure or demise of the business owners. An estate plan can provide the rules and instructions for the business to transition to a new owner and ensure continuity.
A good estate plan also addresses tax planning. There are more than a few tax reduction strategies to minimize the taxes on a decedent’s estate, making more money available to the surviving family.
For philanthropically minded people, the estate planning process can also support charitable causes, creating a legacy and inspiring other family members to think beyond their own needs and wants to serve their communities.
It’s never too early to begin preparing an estate plan—life is unpredictable, and there’s no downside to being ready for whatever may come next.
Reference: The Record-Courier (Aug. 27, 2023) “A good estate plan important”