By John Stewart
Director of Estate and Asset Services
American Cancer Society
An estate plan aims to preserve the maximum wealth possible for the intended beneficiaries, while providing financial flexibility for the plan’s owners throughout their lives.
Most Americans can benefit from estate plans, but more than half don’t have one in place.
Why have an estate plan?
There are many compelling reasons to have an estate plan, including:
Even small estates can have problems
You have an estate if you own any property, including cash assets. Regardless of
how large your estate is, proper planning can prevent your family from becoming
embroiled in controversy over how to divide your assets after you pass away.
Elements of an estate plan
Estate plans have several elements:
When to begin
A good time to begin your estate plan is when you get married, or when you are
expecting your first child.
Many people will do more extensive planning later, perhaps when they are in their
50s, or in the pre-retirement stage.
An appropriate time to take action and evaluate your assets is when your focus
begins to shift from earning a living and taking care of yourself to making sure your
loved ones and favorite charties are cared for after your death.
How to begin
The process of creating an estate plan begins by gathering all important documents and taking an inventory of assets. Most estates are larger than their owners realize.
Assets include the home, savings, insurance policies, investments, retirement plans
and business interests.
Seek professional advice
When you are ready to design your estate plan, you should enlist the help of
professionals such as an attorney who specializes in trust and estates, your
financial advisor, and your accountant. Be open with them about your goals and
concerns for yourself and your survivors.
One of the most effective elements in estate planning is also one of the most popular forms of planned gifts to charities: a bequest in the Will.
Bequests work particularly well if you are unable to make an immediate gift but
would like to support a favorite charity in the future.
Advantages of charitable bequests are:
Create a legacy
Including a charitable bequest in a Will does not cost anything now, but it enables
you to address your wishes and create your legacy.
If you change your mind about a charity included in your Will, you can revoke the
bequest the next time you update your Will.
Charitable bequests provide many tax advantages and offer a way to contribute to
multiple charities, rather than having to pick just one.
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If you help familes plan for or deal with elder care matters, then you owe it to yourself and to families across America to become a professional member of the National ElderCare Matters Alliance and to be listed on the many Elder Care / Senior Care Directories that are sponsored by this National Alliance of Elder Care Professionals.
For additional information about professional membership in the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, (including the many benefits of becoming one of our ElderCare Matters Partners) and to download an Application for your Basic, Premium or Partner Membership in the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, visit: ElderCare Matters Alliance.