Wealth Management Tips: Basics of Estate Planning

October 8, 2019 | Casey Gibb
Couple getting Estate Planning advice from an advisor

Estate planning is a sensitive topic. The process requires you to make emotional and sometimes difficult considerations and decisions about the legacy you’ve built and what you’ll leave behind. 

Because this is such a sensitive and challenging topic, it’s no surprise that about six out of ten of us will procrastinate when it comes to addressing our wills and starting the estate planning process, perhaps cushioned by the thought that there is plenty of time to deal with it all later. While that may be true, the real truth is that the more you plan now, the more control and assurance you’ll have over who manages your legacy and how. 

The basics of estate planning involve creating a will, choosing an executor, assigning power of attorney, and keeping your beneficiaries up to date. However, it’s much, much more than that. It’s about honoring the life that you’ve lived while ensuring that everything that you’ve built for yourself and your family remains intact well into the future.

Here is a breakdown of the estate planning essentials, and some tips to help you safeguard the assets you’ve worked so hard to build. 

Create your will

A will is an official document that determines who is to receive your assets. A will is the only way to ensure that your property, personal possessions, and bank accounts end up in the right hands. According to a recent survey, 76 percent of people felt a will was vital, but only 40 percent have a will in place.

Your will is an official, legal, and binding document, so whether you would like your assets to go to a spouse, your children, a family pet, or another beneficiary, your stated wishes are not enough—you must have an official will to make it happen.

Choose an executor

An executor’s role is to carry out your will as you wish. Someone you trust, such as a close friend or family member, could handle a small or straightforward estate. A more significant estate would be better off in the hands of an experienced professional, one who can navigate challenges or complicated situations with more ease and understanding than a friend or family member could.

Establish power of attorney 

Appointing a trusted individual as your power of attorney gives them the authority to take over your financial decision-making if you are unable to handle this yourself, perhaps due to illness or another incapacitation. In addition to managing your financial affairs, you should also consider appointing a medical power of attorney, which is someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf.

Ensure your beneficiaries are updated 

What happens to pensions, life insurance, retirement funds, and brokerage accounts that are not covered or handled by a will? We recommend that you assign a beneficiary to each and keep each account updated as your life situations may change. If you don’t assign or update beneficiaries, it could mean your assets end up going to someone you may not have intended—or no one at all. 

Consult with an advisor or wealth management firm

Estate planning can be an extremely complex and nuanced process. By calling in wealth management professionals, you’ll have trusted partners who are well-versed at handling even the smallest and most complicated estate planning details, ensuring that your wishes are respected and that your legacy remains.

For questions or more information about the estate planning process, contact our team at Hapanowicz and Associates. We can provide you with resources and information that will help you understand how to safeguard your assets now and for the future. Call us at 412-261-5966 or feel free to email me directly at rgibb@hapanowicz-associates.com.

Hapanowicz & Associates and LPL Financial do not provide legal advice or services. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.


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