Proper planning for your estate often takes the skill of a well-informed team, including financial experts (your CPA and wealth manager), an estate planning attorney, any doctors to discuss medical issues, and your family. Many of the documents that need to be drawn up to help protect your health and your assets (including your will, health care directives, and any trusts) will be taken care of by the attorney present on your team.
It is important that all team members are on the same page, or it will make progress more difficult. Plans often unravel when team members (generally various family members) have different goals in mind for the planning and execution of an estate.
One of the first steps to proper estate planning is to plan for expected and unexpected health issues. There might be a history of heart issues, cancer, or other serious illnesses in the family. However, there are also often unexpected injuries that can occur and throw your plan off track.
This is where your estate planning attorney should confidently suggest drafting a health care directive (often called a living will) that will discuss all aspects of your wishes in the case of a serious illness or injury. Many clients refrain from discussing this important issue because they are young or feel that they are invincible.
Keep in mind that serious car accidents happen on a daily basis, so it is important to be well prepared for the unexpected. Proper planning will allow for you and your family to be at ease if any emergencies are present.
Your financial well-being should also be considered when drafting your proper estate plan. First off, drafting a will is of the utmost importance. A will is a legal document that will properly distribute your assets among your heirs. This will assist your family in avoiding lengthy (and costly) probate issues where the courts can tie up your assets for years after your passing.
An attorney and CPA can also discuss the creation of trusts, which may or may not allow you access to your assets during your life. These trusts often have tax and financial benefits, as your assets might be legally out of your name for purposes of planning for Medicaid and other issues. This might also allow you to reduce the value of your estate for tax purposes.
Lastly, it is important for your wealth manager to join the conversation to discuss the current assets that they manage as well as discussing the proper use of life insurance to help pay down debt and possible tax liabilities.
Estate planning done properly can often be very taxing (pun intended) on all parties involved. It is important to have an expert team in place that can properly guide your family through all of the steps of a proper plan. These might include health care directives, a will to properly leave any estates to heirs, and tax planning for larger estates (that is where the CPA will come in) while still respecting the goals of all family members involved. Although the process can be long and difficult, it can be rewarding if done properly.