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Estate planning: Ensure a lasting family legacy There are steps you can take now to best transfer wealth to your family and generations to come. Whether you’re looking to retain wealth or provide for a spouse or future generations, there’s ample reason to engage in estate planning efforts as a regular part of maintaining financial wellness. As a key part of building a solid, lasting financial foundation for your household, it’s time to start planning your estate strategy and safeguarding against uncertainty.
First things first: It’s important to create a will. An authorized will allows you to determine how assets — personal property, real estate, cars, etc. — will be assigned after death. This basic document makes sure you determine who gets what so it doesn’t fall to a governmental entity to decide. Your will should also delineate how substantial expenses — taxes, debt to creditors, funeral expenses, etc. — will be paid. You should also name an executor to carry out the orders within the will.
In addition to crafting a will, you may also want to establish a living trust for yourself. A living trust is a legal entity that places your wealth and holdings into the organizational equivalent of a safety deposit box. Doing so allows you to avoid probate (court proceedings that occur following death) and associated hassles. It can also save your family thousands of dollars in surrounding fees and help put money in their hands faster.
“It's never too late to start estate planning … you don't have to be of retirement age to make a will,” notes Susan Longley, Vice President of Servicing Operations for American Airlines Federal Credit Union. “From a logistical standpoint, it’s also important to understand what happens to any assets or liabilities that you may have upon your passing.”
Noting this, she said that there are other practical matters of which estate planners should be aware:
Understand how your accounts and assets (checking, savings, CDs, etc.) operate and designate specific beneficiaries for each, so that your holdings transfer as intended upon your passing.
Make the intended recipients aware that they’re designated as beneficiaries on these assets, and that they stay in touch and actively keep updated contact information on file with the Credit Union should representatives need to get in touch with them. Better yet, if they're eligible, sponsor them for Credit Union membership.
Ensure that any outdated information (i.e. ex-spouses who were previously noted as beneficiaries) is removed from your accounts and holdings. Update beneficiaries on all your financial holdings.
Keep an eye on any outstanding liabilities (car loans, debts, etc.) that you may hold and know how remaining payments and ownership of any associated possessions will be handled upon your passing. If you’re concerned about your debts, purchase credit life insurance in advance to help ensure that any balances or liens are paid off in an appropriate and timely fashion.
You can create greater security and peace of mind for yourself and loved ones by putting a sound estate strategy in place. You can also create an effective safeguard against whatever unforeseen circumstances tomorrow may bring. Scott Steinberg is an award-winning professional speaker and management professional. He is the bestselling author of Think Like a Futurist, Make Change Work for You and Fast Forward: How to Turbo-Charge Business, Sales, and Career Growth.