An estate plan is more than just a document that designates how your assets are passed down – they provide a variety of benefits that extend beyond simple inheritance, covering critical elements that wills ignore such as comprehensive guardianship planning for your children, protection for your loved ones, and a plan of action if you are incapacitated. The estate planning process has an added benefit – it gives you a birds-eye-view of your legacy’s total value, helping you figure out how to grow your assets today to reach your goals for the future.
You may have a will that names a guardian for your children, but there are other considerations that are often not addressed in a standard will. For instance, you may need to select a conservator to manage their inheritance until they are old enough to handle it appropriately. You may also need additional guardianship selections in the event that your first choice is unable to take on the responsibility. An estate planner will be able to help you prepare for all these eventualities, while also building flexibility into your plan should your family’s needs change.
Another key reason why people establish an estate plan is to protect their loved ones in the event of a tragedy. At a time when they are at their most vulnerable, they need protection from the cold, uncaring bureaucracy of the probate system, circling creditors, and even from each other. Each of these issues can be addressed with a robust and comprehensive estate plan.
Probate is the long, costly legal process that the government uses to settle your estate, burns family’s time and money while exposing your estate to public scrutiny. Information in the probate court is accessible to anyone, and the process can end up freezing your assets for a year or more when your loved ones need access the most. Without an estate plan in place, your beneficiaries also run the risk that their creditors may be able to collect on their inheritance, leaving them with nothing. Additionally, unclear or incomplete wills can pit family members against one another, creating strife when there should be healing.
An effective estate plan can minimize the process or avoid probate altogether, providing your family with the privacy and access they need. The use of lifetime trusts, tuition savings accounts, and other financial vehicles developed in the creation of an estate plan can prevent creditors from taking your loved ones’ inheritances before they even have it in hand. An estate plan also allows you to examine all your assets and your relationships, then develop a strategy to best distribute them in a way that prevents family conflict and court challenges. You have the opportunity to discuss those options with your beneficiaries and potential guardians, settling disputes before they become full-fledged rifts in the family. A well-prepared estate plan will also be legally sound and enforceable, ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes and not according to the government or legal challenges from family members.
Finally, estate planning covers circumstances that wills ignore, such as incapacitation. Many Americans will encounter some kind of disability before their death, yet few have a plan in place to address that outcome. In the event of your incapacitation, there are several factors to consider, such as who will have control over your personal assets and who will retain custody of your children. Without an estate plan in place, your assets may be placed under the control of a legal guardian chosen by the state who does not have your best interests at heart. This leaves your estate, and your children, at risk of not being cared for according to your wishes. An effective estate plan will be able to anticipate this outcome and provide you with options to ensure that your wishes are carried out whether you are alive and incapacitated or have passed on.
Regardless of whether your goals are for family longevity, philanthropic generosity, or to enjoy the majority of your assets’ value before your death, comprehensive estate planning will provide you with the insight you need to ensure that your legacy is one that you are proud to leave behind.
Starting with an initial 360-degree review process, Providentia Law designs complete, custom plans that protect family members, assets, and values, and maintains your plan with a subsequent lifetime support program. Come join us for an educational session on what you can do today to protect your family, your wealth, assets, and yourself.