Estate planning basics, one family’s experience, and how to get your financial affairs in order.
Estate planning can be an uncomfortable process.
While no one likes talking about death, it is one of the few certainties in life. It is a “when” not “if” proposition, and it is important to plan ahead so that you can control how your assets pass to your heirs (and also not leave a burden to someone else to sort through your affairs when they can’t consult you).
Estate Planning Basics
There are several things you can do to prepare for your inevitable passing (or your disability). For instance, we recommend you…
- Identify all individual (and spousal assets) and determine who should receive them.
- Include instructions for your care if you become disabled before you die.
- Name a guardian for minor children.
- Locate and safeguard all life insurance policies.
- Review and update beneficiaries on assets and policies.
- Understand pensions and retirement plans.
Although this isn’t a comprehensive list, it should help you start thinking about the importance of estate planning today. Planning can save weeks and months of heartache in an already taxing time. But with proper planning, the death of a spouse doesn’t have to be as stressful on you personally or financially.
One Couple’s Experience with Estate Planning: The Lupos
In a recent story in the The New York Times, one couple’s estate planning helped tremendously.
One couple who went through this exercise, Erika and John Lupo of Sparta, N.J., did so sooner than most, and it paid off. When Mr. Lupo died of cancer last year at age 57, Ms. Lupo, 51, who runs an acting school, was extraordinarily well prepared — unlike many widows.
In his final days, Mr. Lupo, a former salesman, did everything he could to prepare his estate and make sure his wife knew where his assets were — and how they could be bequeathed to her and heirs. There was a bit of complex estate and financial planning involved, because Mr. Lupo had a daughter from a previous marriage, and the couple has a teenage son.
Working with Mark Germain, a certified financial planner with Beacon Wealth Management in Hackensack, N.J., Mr. Lupo had several documents in order just a few weeks before he died.
“We made out wills, durable powers of attorney and a trust” for Mr. Lupo’s daughter, Mr. Germain said. “We also made some arrangements for the son in the will. We had to do some sophisticated planning.”
In this instance, the Lupos’ estate planning was complex. There was a previous marriage, another child, and a teenage son in the mix. But with the help of a good financial planner, the Lupos were able to order their financial affairs to help sustain the family when the patriarch passed on.
Getting Your Estate In Order
Each individual’s (and family’s)situation is unique. What may have been true for the Lupos may have nothing to do with your circumstances. That’s why it’s important to connect with the right professionals to complete your estate planning. Even if you have previously completed estate planning, the plan should be reviewed periodically to determine if changes are needed.
We recommend consulting with a board certified estate planning attorney in your area. If you need a referral, please reach out and we’re happy to make an introduction!
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