How to Make Protecting Your Assets a Priority
Everyone can benefit from estate planning tips, but women face particular challenges when it comes to protecting their assets. Estate planning for women is critical for many reasons, perhaps most notably because women outlive men in almost every society. With a longer life ahead, it’s even more important for women to make estate planning a priority.
No one wants to think about what will happen when they’re no longer here, yet it’s one of the best things you can do for your assets, your best interests, and your loved ones. The first step: understand the ins and outs of the estate planning process so you can forge a path to a better, more thought-out tomorrow. Check out these estate planning tips.
Estate Planning 101
An estate plan is a complete and comprehensive way to prepare your assets, yourself, and your family for the future. Many people think of it as just a will but, in truth, a proper estate plan is much more robust.
Many people falsely believe that in order to have an estate plan, you have to have reached a certain level of wealth. That couldn’t be further from the truth—estate planning is a smart idea for everyone.
Here’s what a typical estate plan includes:
- Revocable Living Trust: A trust-based estate plan allows your assets to pass to your beneficiaries without having to go through probate court. Your Revocable Living Trust is the cornerstone of your estate plan, a document that sets up the management and distribution of your assets both during and after life.
- Living Will: A document that specifies what medical treatment you do and don’t want to be done to you if you’re unable to speak for yourself. This includes appointing a loved one or trusted family member to make sure your wishes are adhered to in your time of need.
- Last Will: Not to be confused with a Living Will, your Last Will outlines your final wishes and arrangements. You’ll need to appoint an estate executor to help make your plans happen, and name the legal guardians for your children if you have them.
- Power of Attorney: A trusted person in your life who can manage your personal and business responsibilities if you’re unable to.
- Schedule of Assets: A current list of all your assets.
Know Your Assets
Your estate assets, quite simply, are any property that you own when you pass away. Your assets could include:
- Checking and savings accounts
- Any property you may own, including your home, land, or even recent appraisals
- Vehicles, including cars, boats, motorcycles, or recreational vehicles
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement plans, both individual and workplace plans
- Any stocks, bonds, or mutual funds
- Family heirlooms, including jewelry and handmade items
- Collectibles, which could encompass a coin or stamp collection, art, or antiques
This list is not exhaustive, so consider anything else of value you may own.
Do I Really Need an Estate Plan?
A recent survey found that, although 56% of Americans think having a will is important, only 1 in 3 actually has an estate planning document. If you find yourself as a part of the ⅔ who don’t, it’s time to reprioritize. The biggest estate planning mistake you can make is not having a plan at all.
It’s hard for many people to confront their own demise, and while facing mortality isn’t comfortable, neither are the negative implications not having an estate plan could have for you and your family’s future.
Passing away without a plan means your family would have to deal with the incredibly stressful scenario of divvying up your assets for you when they’re grieving and vulnerable. Add potentially high court costs and taxes to that potential strife and it paints a clear picture of the value of proper estate planning.
Another hypothetical, but possible, scenario: what would happen if you were to become seriously ill, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to advocate for yourself? Would you be comfortable shifting the burden of the ensuing decisions? They’d be put in the difficult position of choosing the course of your medical treatment, which measures should and should not be taken, and any arrangements if things take a turn for the worse.
Updating Your Estate Plan
The good news is that wills don’t expire. However, if your life circumstances have changed over the course of the past years, it’s important to address anything that could potentially be out of date. Examples of life events could be marriage, divorce, the passing of a spouse, or the birth or adoption of a child.
It can be hard to know exactly when you should dig back into your estate plan. As they say—the only constant in life is change and you can’t be updating it constantly. Here are some examples of common life events that should prompt you to dust off your documents:
- Marital Status: When your marital status changes, either by divorce or marriage, you may need to adjust who you’ve named as your trustees, executor, or power of attorney. If an ex-spouse is listed as a beneficiary, take the time to remove them. Likewise, if you have a new love in your life, make sure they are named in the appropriate places. Make sure to check retirement accounts and insurance policies, too.
- Decline or Diagnosis: If you or your spouse are experiencing any significant decline in mental or physical wellbeing, or have recently received a major diagnosis, you should make sure you have your will and living trust at the ready. Make sure you cover any potential costs, too, like long-term care or rehabilitation centers.
- Loss of a Loved One: If a loved one passes away, you should revise your estate plan if they were mentioned, especially as a beneficiary. If you received any inheritance after they passed, you may also need to update your list of assets.
- Time: If you’re over 60, it’s important that you review your documents regularly, even if nothing has changed. When you’re younger, you can review them every four or five years, but it’s important to do so more frequently as you age.
Estate Planning Process for Women: Partner for the Best Outcome
These documents are critical to your legacy and your loved ones. Partnering with a trusted professional means you can be confident in the knowledge that your family’s tomorrow is secure.
At Arbor Capital, we are committed to helping you see your vision through. If you’d like to speak with a member of the Arbor team about your estate planning needs, please schedule a conversation today. We can work in tandem with your estate attorney or other professional partners to ensure your goals for your family’s financial future are well planned for.