BY: Kenny Brown, Jr, MBA | Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, AmeriTrust
& Quin Swiney, J.D. | Assistant Vice President / Trust Administration, AmeriTrust
Valentine’s Day is a special time of year when couples and families express their love and appreciation for each other. One way to show your love is making sure your estate plan – you know, the one you filed away years ago – still reflects how you want to take care of your family and the ones you care about the most.
Simply having an estate plan is not enough because you need to be confident that the plan will work as you originally intended. Estate planning mistakes (such as not updating your beneficiaries or property list) can be expensive and time-consuming to correct. Worse, your wealth may not be distributed according to your wishes when you pass or if you become incapacitated.
Having an estate plan is an important step in securing your legacy. But here’s what you need to do to make sure you maximize the wealth you distribute to your heirs and beneficiaries.
1| Involve an estate planning professional throughout the process
An estate plan usually contains legally binding documents (like a will) that dictate not only how and when your wealth is distributed, but who receives it and how the plan is administered. That’s why it is vital to involve an estate administration professional throughout the process.
Our team has reviewed far too many estate planning documents that were legally correct, but the wording contained ambiguities that caused problems down the road. An estate administration expert can identify potential issues not addressed in the documents (such as making sure property is correctly titled) and ensure the wording matches your intent.
2| Assemble of team of tax and wealth management experts
In addition to having an estate planning and administration expert in your corner, we recommend having a tax professional /CPA and financial advisor involved throughout the process. The estate planning attorney will ensure that the plan is put together correctly, while the CPA will make sure tax matters are attended to and a financial advisor will make sure the wealth is managed prudently. But it’s the estate planning professional who will ensure that the overall plan is properly executed. Think of your estate planning professional as an expert mechanic who will do the necessary check-up to make sure your plan is in tip top condition.
3| Meet regularly with your estate planning professional to review your plan
It is essential that you review your plan with your estate planning professional on a regular basis or if you have had – or expect – a major life change. Significant life events include marriage, divorce, birth or adoption, an increase in your wealth, or changes in federal tax laws. Changes in your family dynamic (legal issues, acceptance to a prestigious university) may also affect how you want to treat family members.
You see your doctor for your annual physical to make sure you are healthy. Why not check in with your estate planning professional to update your plan with any changes?
Estate planning is about using your hard-earned wealth to take care of your loved ones and supporting the charities and community groups that are making our world a better place. Taking the time to have an updated estate plan in place is exactly the kind of Valentine’s Day gift that will be remembered for years and help you secure your legacy.
If you would like to learn more about estate plans and administration, please contact one of our trust and estate planning advisors. We are ready to help.