Often, when people talk about creating an estate plan, the conversation revolves around the need for a revocable living trust. What most people don’t understand, however, is the living trust is just the beginning.

Jeremy Witbeck, Partner

There are other vital documents that may be necessary for a comprehensive plan depending on your desires and the needs of your family. These include a will, beneficiary designations, letter of intent, durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, and guardianship designations. We will briefly review the purpose of the will, beneficiary designations, and letter of intent in this article, and review the remaining documents next week.

The will, with the trust, serves as the core for every comprehensive estate plan. When drafted correctly, the trust and will in combination will help you avoid the public court process called probate, and may help you reduce or eliminate the estate tax completely. It is important for the will and trust to be written in a complimentary manner to avoid confusion when it is time to split the assets. Inconsistencies can lead to the will or trust being contested, resulting in much greater complexity in splitting the assets amongst intended recipients.

Some assets pass outside of the will and trust utilizing beneficiary designations. Accounts such as 401(k) plans, IRAs, Roth IRAs, life insurance, and taxable assets with transfer on death designations fall into this category. These assets transfer without utilizing a will or trust. When listing beneficiaries, it is preferable to list primary and contingent beneficiaries. Contingent beneficiaries serve as a backup, in case the primary beneficiaries are unable or unwilling to inherit the asset(s). It is essential to make sure that you keep your beneficiary designations up to date and current.

At times, it may be difficult to understand what a person was trying to accomplish with the instructions left in the will and trust. A letter of intent can be invaluable in helping to communicate what the purpose of specific instructions were, helping ensure the spirit of the trust and will is carried out correctly. Other items like funeral arrangements can be specified in the letter of intent, bringing clarity to your desires.

If you have not created these documents, or it has been some time since you reviewed them, your Polaris Wealth Financial Group (PGFG) Wealth Advisor is ready to review your estate planning needs with you. Although PGFG employees cannot create legal documents, we stand by ready to work with your estate attorney, or introduce you to one from our network. While it is never pleasant to plan for events leading to the need for an estate plan, it can be comforting to know that if anything happens to you, your family and financial affairs will be cared for in a manner consistent with your values and desires.

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