Thursday, 12 October 2023 16:51

The Basics of Estate Planning: Securing Your Legacy and Protecting Your Loved Ones

By Stephen Kyne, CFP Sterling Manor Financial | Families Today
The Basics of Estate Planning: Securing Your Legacy and Protecting Your Loved Ones

Estate planning is a critical process that can help ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your passing, while also minimizing the taxes, expenses, and stress for your loved ones. By creating a comprehensive estate plan, you can protect your estate’s value, provide for your family’s future, and leave a lasting legacy.

Estate planning involves a series of legal documents and strategies that outlines how assets and liabilities will be managed and distributed upon your death. It can allow you to control the flow of your assets, protect your family’s financial security, and establish a plan for your healthcare should you become incapacitated.

The cornerstone of any estate plan is a will. A will is a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets and the appointment of guardians for minor children. Without a will, your estate may be subject to intestacy laws, leaving the decision making power in the hands of the court. Writing a will can allow you to specify who should inherit your assets, no matter how small or large, and helps avoid potential family disputes.

While wills are essential, they may not be enough for complex estates or specific needs. In such cases, creating a trust as part of your estate plan can be beneficial. Trusts can provide greater control over the distribution of your assets, allowing you to stipulate when and how your beneficiaries will receive their inheritances. Additionally, they can offer privacy since trust documents don’t become public record. Irrevocable trusts can also help reduce estate taxes and protect assets from creditors.

Estate planning encompasses more than just distributing assets after death. It also includes preparing for potential incapacity during your lifetime. A power of attorney document grants another person the authority to handle your financial affairs should you become unable to do so yourself. Similarly, healthcare directives, such as a living will or a healthcare proxy, can help ensure that your medical wishes are known and respected if you are unable to communicate them personally.

Life is ever-changing, and so should your estate plan. Marriage, divorce, birth, death, or significant changes in your financial situation or goals require updates to your plan.

Neglecting to review and update your estate plan periodically may lead to unintended consequences, leaving your loved ones to deal with outdated instructions or assets passing into unintended hands.

While do-it-yourself estate planning documents are available, they often fail to address the unique circumstances and complexities of individuals’ situations. Consulting an experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure that your plan is tailored to your specific needs and goals. An attorney can guide you through the legal requirements, explain the implications of certain choices, and help you navigate the local laws and regulations.

Creating an effective estate plan can be essential for securing your legacy, protecting your loved ones, and ensuring your assets are distributed as you desire. By incorporating a will, trusts, power of attorney, healthcare directives, and strategies to minimize taxes, you can leave a lasting positive impact on your family and future generations. Seek professional guidance to customize your estate plan and provide peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones.

Stephen Kyne CFP® is a Partner at Sterling Manor Financial, LLC in Saratoga Springs. Securities offered through Cadaret, Grant & Co., Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Sterling Manor Financial, LLC, or Cadaret Grant & Co., Inc., SEC registered investment advisors. Sterling Manor Financial and Cadaret, Grant are separate entities. Neither Cadaret, Grant and Co., nor Sterling manor financial and their representatives provide tax or legal advice.

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