Estate Planning Basics

Estate Planning is really about control. 

Recently, my friend and I were having an interesting conversation about control. She said she always likes to be the one to drive somewhere, therefore, when she’s ready to go, she can go. The truth is, so do I! I always like to have my car because I feel like I have a sense of control. 

While you may or may not be like us in this way, I’m guessing there is a part of you that likes to have control. You want to control the things in your life that you can. 

Sometimes the problem is learning what we can’t control right! I always come back to the Serenity Prayer. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. But after we want to have that control in our life. 

 

 

This week we had a great guest on our First Friday, Peter Osman about estate planning, the different documents, the different 

strategies, and some of the tools he uses.

Here’s the thing with estate planning; it is about maintaining control. If you want to always make sure you are in control of what happens to your situation, your health, your wealth, then it’s important to do estate planning. That is the only way that you can remain in control. 

Above everything else, all that estate planning does is lets you remain in control of your health and your wealth.

 

Is A Will or A Trust Better?

To start, let’s cover a will and a trust and how they both can designate beneficiaries for you. Let’s also talk about the way the assets are distributed and who’s in control of each. 

How they’re distributed is a little bit different because a will is more on a reactive basis and does not do anything until after death and through the probate courts. 

 A trust is a more proactive basis, where, if it’s done right, you’re aligning your asset with the trust now so that it’s easier and will avoid probate. 

What’s best for you? It depends, this really starts with a conversation about what you want and what you have. 

 Because while it’s good to have an idea of the basics of this, just like with a lot of financial planning tools and strategies, it really comes down to what makes the most sense for you and it’s not always the same thing. 

What Is A TOD and a POD?

Another topic to discuss is beneficiary designations. IRA’s, ROTH’s, Life Insurance and Annuities all have beneficiaries forms. On a brokerage account (or your real estate in some states) a TOD takes the place of a beneficiary form and on bank accounts, a POD does the job.

TOD stands for transfer on death and POD stands for payable on death. FOr example, a stock is not sold, ownership is transferred but money in a bank account is paid out.

You could have a bunch of many mini-estate plans using these forms and that might accomplish your goal too.  But you do need to make sure you check and update these because I think oftentimes people forget to update beneficiary forms after a life event. Even if you have a will or a Trust, the beneficiary form, TOD or POD trumps all!

The other issue we’ve seen sometimes is they name a spouse and nobody else as the beneficiary. So if you and your spouse were killed in a car accident together, not only is it up to the court to administer, it’s up to the court to decide who gets it. So having those beneficiary designations I think are important and serve as safeguards in place. 

Do I Need A Power Of Attorney Now?

Estate planning isn’t just about planning for your death. It’s also planning in case you become incapacitated. It is making sure you have the right documents in place so that someone can take care of you, make health decisions, take care of your financial decisions, and make sure your life runs smoothly. You need to have this in place with the financial power of attorneys. 

Otherwise, you go back to the courts, and do you really want the courts to be in charge of picking anything for you? Probably not.

Also, my interview with Shana is still posted in our Women and Wealth Week Group if you want to check it out. Just request to join the group and then you can take a look and see how both her and Peter start all planning with a conversation. 

If you have one takeaway today, know that estate planning is not something to put off and just ignore or procrastinate on because when you’re gone it won’t affect you, but it affects your legacy and you have to think about the people who are left behind. 

We built what we have and we want to retain control. I want what I’ve worked for to go to who I wanted to go to. I wanted to take care of them the way I would want to be taken care of if something were to happen to me. The only way to retain that control is by doing the planning. 

Peter and Shana don’t charge for a conversation and that is the best place to start. Just ask questions, get an idea of where you’re at and how it aligns with your other future plans. So, if you want to talk to them, send us an email (fullcircle@bertramfinancial.com) and start the conversation!

 

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