Estate Planning Essentials


Vanessa Mavec King, CFP®, Director, Financial Planning

Estate planning can certainly sound daunting or like something only the ultra-wealthy need to worry about. However, it is one of the most important steps someone can take to ensure that their assets and loved ones are well taken care of. Avoiding the planning process can have lasting and costly consequences.

While there are many in-depth and more complicated planning techniques, there are several documents that our Wealth & Estate Planning team recommend all our clients have in place. Think of these as the foundation of an estate plan that can be added to depending on the needs of your assets and situation.

A Basic Will is a legal document that states your wishes on how your assets will be distributed at your passing. The document names the person you would like to be responsible for distributing your estate and, if applicable, who will be the guardian of your children. If there is no Will in place, state law will dictate what happens to your estate. Assets passing through the Will go through probate unless there is a trust in place, or the asset is a Will Substitute (such as an account with a named beneficiary, like life insurance and retirement accounts, or assets titled with a specific designation such as “transfer on death” (TOD) that will bypass the probate process).

A Living Will states your desired medical directives should you be in a non-cognitive or terminal healthcare state. This would include decisions such as whether to remain on life sustaining support.

A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a document that names the agent or person you would like to make medical decisions on your behalf should you be unable to do so.

A Durable Financial Power of Attorney names the person that you would like to be able to make financial decisions and take financial action on your behalf if you are unable.

Each of these Power of Attorney documents allow you to name a successor agent(s) should your first choice be unable or unwilling to act as agent.

Lastly, a trust is a legal document that allows the grantor (you) to name a trustee to manage the assets held in the trust, according to the trust’s directives. A Revocable Living Trust allows you to act as both the grantor and trustee during your lifetime and continue to edit and make changes to the trust. Frequently, the grantor (you) would also be the beneficiary of the trust during your lifetime. Living trusts are used for probate avoidance, control of assets after death, protection and privacy of assets and, in some cases, tax planning strategies. While they are not necessary for everyone, in many cases they make sense as part of an estate plan, and not just for the very wealthy.

The most important aspect of estate planning is the peace of mind that it imparts. You will be sure that your wishes are known and that there are legal processes in place to fulfill them. The process of estate planning raises some challenging questions but the decisions and conversations it provokes are particularly important and should not be ignored.

Ancora’s Wealth & Estate Planning team is available to assist you as you begin your estate planning process. Our team can review any documents you may already have in place and work in partnership with your estate attorney or refer you to one of the many estate attorneys we work with and deeply trust.

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