Financial Fitness: What to consider when developing an estate plan

The word “estate” conjures images of great wealth, which may be why so many people don’t develop estate plans – after all, they’re not rich, so why make the effort?

In reality, though, if you have a family, you can probably benefit from estate planning, irrespective of your asset level. You may well find that a comprehensive estate strategy can help answer questions you may find unsettling – or even worrisome.

Who will oversee my finances and my living situation if I become incapacitated?

You can build various forms of protection into your estate planning such as an enduring power of attorney, which allows you to designate someone to manage your financial affairs if you become physically or mentally incapacitated. You could also create a power of attorney for personal care, which allows someone to handle health care decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so yourself.

Will I shortchange my family if I leave significant assets to charities?

Unless you have unlimited resources, you’ll have to make some choices about charitable gifts and money for your family. But as part of your estate strategy, you do have some appealing options.

For example, you could establish a trust, which provides financial support to your chosen charities for a period of time, with the remaining assets eventually going to your family members.

A charitable remainder trust, by contrast, can provide a stream of income for your family members for the term of the trust before the remaining assets are transferred to one or more charitable organizations.

As you can see, careful estate planning can help answer questions that may be worrying you. Be aware, though that certain aspects of estate planning, especially those related to living trusts and charitable trusts, can be complex, so you should consult your notary or qualified tax professional about your situation.

Once you have your strategy in place, you should be able to face the future with greater clarity and confidence.

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