Estate planning is easily neglected, as it’s hard to address “What happens to my assets and my loved ones when I die?”

#1

Everyone has something in common—you can’t take it with you when you die. Besides planning for asset distribution, an estate plan can help you accomplish other important goals regarding financial planning, care of your family, and even the management of your business.

#2

An estate plan can be a useful planning tool while you are living.  Especially so if you become ill or incapacitated, unable to manage your affairs. In such cases, powers of attorney for financial decisions and medical decisions are important. If such powers are not signed, your loved ones may find themselves in a chaotic and difficult situation.

#3

Estate plans are for everyone, not just high-net-worth individuals or those requiring medical assistance. These are dynamic plans that should be regularly reviewed. A fully-executed, well-thought-out estate plan goes much further than a Will (a simple document that sets forth your asset distribution wishes.

#4

Trusts are not one-size-fits-all. Reasons for a trust include avoidance of probate, minimizing estate taxes, protecting assets, control over your wealth, protection of your legacy or to avoid otherwise complicated/burdensome processes. Whether a trust is appropriate depends upon facts and circumstances, the nature of the assets, and, very often, family dynamics.

#5

Even if you already have a Will, trust and/or powers-of-attorney in place, it may be time for a review. Many situations warrant revisiting your estate plan, such as the impact of law changes, financial markets, and economic events; marriage, divorce or a second marriage; relationship changes with beneficiaries; executor or trustee choices becoming inappropriate or undesired; the death of a spouse or loved one; or a liquidity event or large changes in net worth.

About the Author: Thomas W. Winkler is a CPA and licensed attorney who has been in practice for more than 37 years. Tom was named a Leading Lawyer™ in the area of Trusts, Wills & Estates.  Tom also has been selected by the American Institute of Legal Counsel as one of the 10 best attorneys in Illinois in the Estate Planning Division.  Learn more at Winkler-Law.com and call 847.466.5280 for a free consultation.