For a lot of people, an estate plan begins and ends with the signing of a last will and testament. The best thing about a basic will is it requires you to at least think about who would get what when you die. That said, it is a place to start, not a plan.
Estate planning is more than writing a will. It is the process of:
• Determining what you own
• Determining what you want to happen to that property in the event of your incapacity or at death
• Implementing that plan through legal documents and other asset transfer techniques
Estate planning is difficult. You will have to discuss uncomfortable scenarios in which you are no longer in control of your assets. Most people spend their lifetime growing and guarding their wealth. Understandably, we have a deep personal commitment to its preservation. We may not admit it, but our sense of security is tied, in many ways, to the access and control of our assets.
Estate planning can also be stressful because it is complex. Creating and implementing a good estate plan should include at least three professionals: your financial advisor, your accountant, and an attorney who focuses his or her practice in this area. You should consider bringing together the key players you expect to be involved in your plan. This will ensure everyone is on the same page and prepared for his or her role, as needed, in the future.
If you don’t plan for the time between retirement and death, the assets you have accumulated over your life may not be there for your heirs. Most people don’t know about long-term care services, supports, and the ways in which they will be paid. Planning for these potential needs can prevent unnecessary loss of wealth and alleviate future family stress. And by asking the right questions, experienced advisors can help clients make decisions and design the life they want to live as they age.
This is an excerpt from Laurie Menzies’s book, “Embracing Elderhood: Planning for the Next Stage of Life.”