Over the last few years, there have been quite a few headlines that have brought estate planning to the forefront. Remember the unfortunate situations with Prince, Robin Williams or even James Gandolfini – when they passed they did not have solid estate plans in place, which inevitably led to a nightmare for their loved ones who were left to deal with lengthy legal battles and familial disputes. Below, we take a look at a couple of reasons why these plans are usually overlooked, and best practices that not only individuals should consider, but entire families as well.
Avoid This Common Mistake
People have a hard time dealing with their own mortality, which is understandable, but this is typically the number one reason that estate plans and legacy plans fall to the wayside. Especially for young couples who might be new to marriage, growing their careers, and starting a family, it’s common for things like Wills, beneficiaries and legacy plans to be low on the priority list. But, this is a massive mistake. It’s not only the transfer of assets that couples have to worry about, but what about the guardianship of young children, or, what about the specific intention for an estate that will now not be satisfied because it was never documented through a Will?
Another reason that estate planning might be put to the backburner is because individuals and families believe it is an effort reserved for the wealthy. For anyone who has accumulated assets of any kind, has specific wishes, or family members to care for, then an estate plan is for you. Remember that it’s not always about the assets with an estate plan, but rather ensuring that your family is protected without putting an extra burden on them during an already difficult time.
Follow Best Practices
When it comes to estate plans, documentation is key. Once an estate plan is in place, individuals and couples should have open conversations (perhaps annually) with different members of the family as to their future wishes and plans. These conversations allow for everyone to be on the same page and understand the reasoning behind the plans, instead of just the monetary value that might be passed. For example, instead of Dad passing his daughter $10,000, he instead can talk to her about the 529 that he has for her, and his vision for those funds being used toward her future education.
Estate planning can be a difficult topic to broach among families. However, having conversations together can help beneficiaries improve the preservation of wealth and continue a meaningful family legacy.
Aside from thoughtful and frequent conversations, another estate plan best practice is keeping documents updated. Whether it’s a Will, a 401(k), a Power of Attorney, etc., it’s critical that beneficiaries are properly named or updated depending on life changes such as new marriage, new children, a death in the family, etc. By not naming beneficiaries or having the “wrong” beneficiaries on an outdated document, it can create quite a mess for heirs.
For anyone with a family or an accumulation of any assets, an estate plan is a smart financial move. By following these best practices, it can ensure that your future plans and wishes will be met, and safeguard your heirs from any mishaps that could occur should a solid plan not be in place. Please feel free to contact us at 888-578-0770 to help you get started.
Univest Corporation and its subsidiaries do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.
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