Your Estate Planning Checklist

I could tell you horror stories about clients who did not have an estate plan in place including heirs missing out on thousands and thousands of dollars due them.  Others involve family battles taking place due to the deceased deciding to let the kids fight over the family farm, home or lake home.  I have also known clients who have incurred huge and unnecessary probate costs.  Since we are so close to Halloween, I will leave it at this.

Estate planning is about having a plan in place so that life is less complicated for you and your loved ones. Giving the right forms and information to the right people ensures that loved ones don't have to fight in court for the right to carry out your final wishes, that insurance policies don't get paid out to former ex-spouses, and that people you trust can access accounts and assets to help maintain the status quo until you recover and take back the reins.

An "estate" is nothing more than the stuff a person owns (i.e., their assets). If you own stuff, and want it to go to a loved one, children, relatives, friends or a charity, then you need an estate plan.

The first part of creating an estate plan is simply getting organized and accounting for what you own. Most, if not all, estate planning attorneys will supply you with the necessary forms to gather this information. In addition, you can record contact information for your financial advisor, accounting and tax professional and other professionals, and identify any holes or out-of-date information in your plan. Ideally, you should include a page to record your wishes and arrangements for your funeral so your loved ones don't end up spending a fortune on things you either wouldn't want or already paid for.

The following documents will go a long way toward easing the headaches and heartaches of dealing with someone else's business in a time of crisis and will even save you and your loved ones some money over the long run.

A living will (or advance medical/healthcare directive). This gives the person you name the power to make medical decisions based on your wishes when you're incapacitated.

A durable power of attorney. This lets you name someone to pay your mortgage, sign your tax returns, sell assets if needed, and generally mind your financial matters if you are incapacitated and can't do so yourself. Without this document, the court may appoint a guardian to take care of these tasks.

An up-to-date will. If you don't have a will, the state will decide who inherits your stuff without a full picture of your true final wishes. More importantly, a will is how you name someone to take care of your children if they're orphaned.

Given the complexities of state laws this document deserves some professional consultation, especially if your assets aren't just run-of-the-mill stuff.

Related to wills are trusts. A trust is essentially a parking spot for your assets (cash, stocks, life insurance, real estate) that people use to ensure that their assets are handled correctly after death and don't go into probate. A trust might make sense in one of the following situations:

  • You're remarried and want to ensure that your kids from a previous relationship get what's left over when your spouse dies.
  • You want someone other than your heirs to manage your money.
  • You have children who need to be cared for if something happened to you.
  • Your children/heirs are not responsible with money and you want someone to make sure they are taken care of and don’t blow through their inheritance.
  • You have a disabled relative.
  • You want to avoid probate.
  • You've accumulated a large estate and want the maximum amount to pass to your family/heirs without being eaten up by inheritance taxes.

 

A crucial part of estate planning is reviewing your beneficiary forms. Remember when you signed up for your company's 401(k) plan or opened a bank account or an IRA? At the time, you were asked to fill out a form designating a beneficiary -- a person who gets your money when you pass.

Make sure you review those occasionally because in many instances, the beneficiary form will override what's in your will. If you don't name a specific beneficiary, or if you designate your estate as the beneficiary, then the money in your accounts (IRAs) may have to go through probate, which will cost your heirs time and money.

While you're at it, make copies of your beneficiary forms and put them with your other important papers.

There's just one more thing to do: Create an annual recurring reminder on your calendar to review all the information in your estate plan so that it's always up to date and accounts for any added or subtracted assets, accounts, advisors, heirs, and spouses.

Once you've compiled the important documents and information for your family (and told them where to find the file), then you can check this incredibly important task of your bucket list.

How Your Credit Score Drives Your Car Insurance Rates

Most consumers are not aware that your credit score can have a greater impact on your car insurance rates than your driving record. The following is a link to a video on this subject: What car insurance companies don't tell you about rates.  I highly recommend you click through, because maintaining a good credit score and paying all your bills on time is becoming increasingly important to your pocketbook!

Take Advantage of Low Interest Rates

Interest rates remain low, as such, if you have not refinanced your home, you need to consider doing so. The following are some mortgage rates* shared from a local mortgage professional.

Loan rates with closing costs paid by borrower:

30 Year Fixed- Rate: 3.625%    

20 Year Fixed- Rate: 3.375%    

15 Year Fixed- Rate: 2.750%    

Loan rates with no closing costs (i.e., paid by the bank):

30 Year Fixed- Rate: 3.875%    

20 Year Fixed- Rate: 3.625%    

15 Year Fixed- Rate: 3.250%    

*The above scenarios are based on $250,000 home value and at least 20% equity as well as good FICO credit scores and debt to income ratios.

If you believe you may be able to lower your monthly payment and/or pay your home off sooner by refinancing your mortgage, then give us a call and we can put you in touch with a mortgage professional whom can help you out.

A Good Time for A Good Cause

We would like to invite you to join our staff for our annual service opportunity.  This year we will be at Harvesters on Wednesday, November 23rd from 10:30AM-12:30PM, sorting and packaging. Let us know if you would like to join us, ages 10 and up are welcome. Please call Sally at 913 897-2074 to reserve your spot.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” 

Winston Churchill

Two Profitable Pinterest Posts

Profitable Pinterest PostProfitable Pinterest Post 

Quotes

“Worry a little bit every day and in a lifetime, you will lose a couple of years. If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything.”

                  Mary (Mrs. Ernest) Hemingway

“Remember that what you believe will depend very much on what you are.”

                   Noah Porter

Quotes selected by the IAG staff

You give but little when you give your possessions.  It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

                   Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

“Never jump into a pile of leaves with a wet sucker.”

                   Charles M. Schulz                                                                                                                              Linus from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

 

Tony Moeller, CPA

The information listed in this commentary is a compilation of various publicly available sources and is for informational purposes only. It is not a recommendation or solicitation of any investment or strategy. A risk of loss is involved with investments in the stock and bond markets.

If you enjoy the commentary and believe others may benefit or find it of interest, please feel free to forward it on. Also, interested individuals can contact us, and we will be happy to add them to our mailing list. 

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