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Estate Planning: No More "Pushing Peas"

As parents of three young kids, we are well acquainted with the fine art of avoiding anything suspected to be unpleasant—or "pushing peas," as the familiar dinnertime stalling tactic goes. And, really, who can blame them?

We grown-ups can be pretty good at avoidance, too. Take estate planning, for example. It's not exactly a process that inspires fist-pumping whoops of excitement.

The argument with my kids goes something like this: "Eat them. They're good for you."

I'll revise this line for estate planning to say: "Do it. It's good for them."

And by "them," I mean the people in your life you care most about. Because they're the ones who will ultimately benefit from an estate plan that establishes a clear and efficient process now for making sure your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you're gone.

Here are four tips for getting beyond the "pushing peas" phase and making estate planning a priority in your life.

Tip #1: Engage an Estate Planning Attorney

The single most important thing you can do to put an estate plan into motion is to engage a qualified estate planning attorney. This is invaluable for making sure all of the necessary legal documents are in place such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney and advanced medical directives. An estate planning attorney can also help walk you through the process and make sure that you are asking all the right questions and covering all your bases.

I should note here that, while many areas of estate planning overlap with financial planning, I am not a qualified legal expert. For such matters, it's important to consult someone who is. If you do not yet have an estate attorney, I am happy to refer you to one.  

As your financial advisor, I can then work closely with your legal counsel to ensure your financial plan is synchronized with your estate plan. And, when the time comes, I can also be a resource for your family to help them execute your plan according to your wishes.

Tip #2: Be Specific with Your Wishes  

Along with the traditional estate planning documents, you may also want to include additional documentation that discusses your personal attitude toward your legacy, explains the reasoning behind your wishes, and details exactly how you want your plan to be executed.

While it may seem redundant with the legal documents, taking this extra step and spelling out the specifics in your own words can help protect against family members misinterpreting your plans. Additional information can also help strengthen your estate plan and protect your trusts, wills and estate plans from being contested.

Tip #3: Review & Update Your Beneficiaries  

When you opened a retirement account, took out a life insurance policy, or enrolled in an annuity program, most likely you designated beneficiaries—that is, the individuals who would receive the assets in these accounts "by operation of law" (avoiding probate) should something happen to you.

But when was the last time you reviewed your beneficiaries?

It's a good idea to do so every year—and especially if you've recently gone through any major life events like marriage, divorce, or having a child.  

For my part, I advise clients with respect to their beneficiaries. You can help by promptly notifying me of any changes in your circumstances so we can make the appropriate updates.

Tip #4: Keep Everyone Who Matters in the Loop

During times of emergency, things can be chaotic and confusing for all parties involved. You can help minimize the chaos by making sure everyone who will be involved with executing your estate plan has the information they need to do so efficiently and without complication or conflict.  

For example, it's a good idea to include a list of trusted advisors with your estate planning documents. These are the individuals who are familiar with your situation—like your estate attorney, tax accountant, and financial advisor—and who can provide support to the executor of your estate in carrying out your wishes.  

On the flip side, it's also good to make sure your trusted advisors know who may be contacting them if something happens to you.

At our practice, for example, we like to have at least one emergency contact on file for each client. While a spouse (if applicable) is typically the first point of contact in an emergency, it's good to also name at least one other individual—such as an adult child, sibling, or other adult—who is entrusted to help manage your finances and make decisions in the event that you (and your spouse) cannot.  

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Estate planning does not have to be a long and painful process—and ultimately you and your loved ones will be glad you did it. If you have any questions, or if I can help in any way, please let me know.


Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. Estes Wealth Strategies is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services.

Any opinions in this newsletter are those of Estes Wealth Strategies and John Estes and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. The information provided does not purport to be a comprehensive description of securities, markets, or other developments. This information has been obtained from sources considered reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information provided is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision, nor does it constitute a recommendation.

Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice.