Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: estate planning. It’s not exactly everyone’s favorite topic, but it’s crucial. Without an updated will and estate plan, your loved ones could face unnecessary stress and uncertainty in the event of your passing. Don’t leave them guessing – ensure your wishes are crystal clear. 

A study by Caring.com reveals 68% of Americans do not have a valid will, and many in this group haven’t even started on their estate plan or considered their legacy. For others, it’s the outdated wills that are the issue. They haven’t been updated to reflect life’s changes: births, deaths, divorces, new relationships, business ventures, property sales, and income shifts. 

It’s no surprise that procrastination is a top reason many individuals don’t have a will or estate plan. Most of us think there will be ample time to address it in the future. Other reasons for delay include: 

  • Uncomfortable Topics: Discussions about mortality, incapacity, and family conflicts can be emotionally challenging, leading some to avoid estate planning conversations. 
  • Financial Concerns: Some people fear the cost of estate planning, while others prioritize immediate financial needs over long-term planning efforts. 
  • Overreliance on Joint Ownership: Some people believe that joint ownership or beneficiary designations are sufficient to transfer assets without the need for formal estate planning. While these methods are useful, they may not cover all aspects of an individual’s estate. 
  • Family Dynamics: Concerns about potential conflicts among family members, especially related to inheritance and decision-making authority, can be a barrier to engaging in estate planning. 
  • Perception of Limited Assets: Individuals with modest estates may erroneously think that estate planning is only relevant for the wealthy, leading them to neglect the process. 

The reasons are understandable but it’s important to tackle estate planning obstacles head-on, and at the earliest opportunity while we are of sound mind and capable of making informed decisions regarding our assets and beneficiaries. Regular reviews and updates are crucial, especially when life circumstances undergo changes such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children, or alterations in financial status.  

It’s estimated that a staggering $72 trillion is on the verge of being passed down from baby boomers to their children creating “The Great Wealth Transfer.” This massive shift underscores the significance of careful financial planning for both benefactors and inheritors alike.

Estate planning empowers us to secure the distribution of our assets in accordance with our preferences upon our passing. Beyond providing clarity on asset distribution, estate planning serves as a strategic tool to minimize estate taxes and steer clear of the potentially prolonged and costly probate process. 

Probate, the legal avenue through which a deceased individual’s assets are distributed to beneficiaries, encompasses assets solely owned by the deceased without designated beneficiaries or joint owners. Real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal property are examples of assets subject to probate. 

To streamline asset distribution and avoid probate, you can designate beneficiaries on specific accounts like retirement accounts and life insurance policies. Implementing Transfer on Death (TOD) designations is another effective strategy for assets such as bank accounts and investments. 

Minimize estate taxes and avoid probate

The Capstone team is experienced and skilled in helping our clients navigate the estate planning process. We can assist you in identifying assets, determining beneficiaries, and formulating a comprehensive plan aligned with your wishes. In addition, we can help minimize estate taxes and circumvent probate by establishing trusts and employing other estate planning tools. Collaborating with financial planners and estate planning attorneys ensures the proper drafting and execution of all necessary legal documents, providing individuals with a robust and well-rounded approach to estate planning. 

Remember, you’re not alone on this journey. Contact us to break free from the barriers and create or update your estate plan today