Estate Planning—Not Just for the Rich and Famous

Estate PlanningNot Just for the Rich and Famous

Central Trust & Investment Co., Greater Springfield LIVING WELL Magazine

Many individuals believe that estate planning is only for the very wealthy and is put in place to primarily save on estate taxes. However, in today’s evolving economic environment, an estate plan can be much more.

A good estate plan is your family’s roadmap if you aren’t able to deliver it in person. You can even include a personal letter in your estate plan. Perhaps it is about your family, how they earned their money or how they hope to be remembered. An estate plan should be personal to you and your family’s wishes.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself to determine whether an estate plan is right for you: Who do you want to receive your assets? How much will they receive? At what age do you want them to receive the funds? Do you want them to receive it all at once? Who will take care of you if you become incompetent? Who will take care of your finances? Who will take care of your minor children? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself before a significant life event occurs.

You may elect to leave your assets in trust for some heirs, yet distribute assets outright for others. A trust can provide for the care of a loved one without overwhelming them with a large sum of money. It can also provide for very conservative or liberal terms. A trust should be very personal, and great care should be taken to address each beneficiary’s specific situation. An added benefit to leaving your heirs money in trust is that it can be protected from creditors, bad marriages and crooks.

In some situations, you may want to establish a charitable fund to benefit certain types of organizations or a specific charity. Perhaps you want to establish a scholarship fund at your high school or leave a percentage to your favorite charity. This too can be accomplished in your estate plan. A good estate plan will even have a list of your personal property and who that property is to be received by. A great deal of heartache and resentment can be avoided by preparing this list and leaving it with the person you have named as trustee of your estate. The plan can certainly provide for the disposition of money, but that is usually the easy part.

The plan addresses what will happen with your family, home and other property you may own. Do you want it to be sold? Should an heir have the option to purchase?

What if you can no longer care for yourself or live alone? Do you want to stay at home and have a helper come in or do you prefer assisted living? Make sure your desires are followed by putting this in writing. If you become incompetent, who will make decisions on your behalf? As part of this process, you will also create a living will and health care directive. This is very important, and everyone should have these in place. Many people even incorporate special provisions to ensure their pets are well cared for should something happen to them.

In addition, you can address problematic issues with beneficiaries such as drug or alcohol abuse and financial irresponsibility. Many families today have children from multiple marriages.  Addressing how they will receive money and assets will go a long way to reduce any conflicts at your death.

While some of these topics are not always fun to think about, it is critically important that you make the decisions rather than leaving it up in the air. An estate plan allows you to decide who will handle your affairs and how they will be handled.

Of course, estate planning can avoid probate and save estate tax, but it is so much more personal. A well drafted estate plan might keep family harmony, protect your loved ones and it is a great gift of peace of mind to your heirs.

Jami Peebles is the executive vice president and Southern Regional Manager for Central Trust & Investment Company in Springfield, MO.

With access to world class, nationally recognized investment solutions and a comprehensive team approach to estate planning and wealth management, Central Trust & Investment Company can tailor a long-term plan to fit you and your specific needs. After all, you deserve a seasoned team that will be there for you, along with the integrated investment solutions you want. Contact the Springfield office today for a free consultation and more guidance on how we can tailor solutions for your particular needs at 417-883-3838.