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Traditional estate planning's woeful inadequacies

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Estate Plan: The Four Crucial Questions You Must Answer


Most people picture sitting down with a lawyer and preparing legal paperwork when I say the phrase "estate planning." In the past, the documents have often included a will, a durable power of attorney, a health care proxy, and maybe a trust. Once these documents are written, you meet to sign them, store them safely, write a check to the lawyer, and exhale with satisfaction that everything is now taken care of. Your estate is completely in order, everything is fine, right? WRONG!

Will and Trust

Oftentimes, the preparation of legal paperwork gets mixed up with the creation of an estate plan. Legal documents are a component of an estate plan, but they are not the estate plan itself. You must ensure that everything is in one place. Otherwise, you risk causing yourself serious difficulties. As a result, 98% of all estate strategies fall short. That is why there are shambles like the Terry Schiavo case and the Ted Williams controversy. You must have a strategy in place to ensure that these things do not happen to you. Most individuals make plans for what will happen if they die. What if you are crippled or mentally ill? In order to be effective, estate plans must be written in order to account for these kinds of contingencies.

To create an efficient estate plan, you must first answer four important questions:

1. Which documentation do I require?

A will, a durable power of attorney, and a health care proxy are all required. In addition, an original marriage certificate, military discharge documentation, health and life insurance information, beneficiary designation forms, deeds, and appraisals are required. Another thing you'll need is a list of critical contacts, complete with phone numbers.

2. Where would my beneficiaries locate these documents?

Each of us has a distinct filing system that has served us well over the years. That's okay. Use a method of organization that is special to you and that works for you. You must develop a system that allows access to your individual filing system, though. For instance, how would your beneficiaries know you possessed a safety deposit box, much alone the location of the bank or the key, in the event that something were to happen to you?

3. When should these legal documents be made available to whom?

I realize that's two questions packaged as one. Remember that these are private and sensitive documents. We are all too aware of the very real issue of identity theft these days. Safeguarding these legal documents and making them available to a restricted group of people under particular situations can help you to maintain your privacy while still developing an efficient estate plan.

4. Who will provide the best counsel to my beneficiaries?

Your estate plan should consider not just your financial holdings, but also your aspirations, wishes, and values. You must identify one person who can capture all of these aspects of your life, someone with whom you have shared your most private thoughts. Who should you or your beneficiaries contact when they are in need?

Don't mistake good estate planning with just completing the necessary paperwork or obtaining an insurance policy or special investment product. An efficient estate plan requires a well-thought-out approach that is meant to secure your most essential information and assist your heirs. Only then can you have peace of mind knowing that you have done your best for your loved ones and that nothing crucial has been ignored.

Should you need any help with your estate planning, check out Trust & Will, a modern, online solution, and a trusted brand for a digital first time customer to create their estate plan. They help people create a customized plan, including all necessary documents in as little as 10 minutes.

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