A typical young family is comprised of a married couple in their 20's or 30's with children. They own a home with a mortgage, a modest savings account and retirement accounts and possibly some basic life insurance policies. The risk of death or disability in this stage of life is small, but the consequences are large. For example, who would manage their assets if either or both of them became disabled in an accident? How can a spouse reposition assets to provide for the care of a disabled spouse? Who would take care of the children if both parents should die while the children are still young? At what age should the children take control of their inheritance?
In the Prime of Life
A typical married couple in their 40's and 50's have children in college, paid their mortgage down to minimal levels and have a good start on their retirement plans. They may own their own business as well as other recreational properties. The risk of death or disability is still small, but the consequences are still large. For example, who will manage the family business in the event of disability or death? How can a spouse reposition assets to provide for the care of a disabled spouse? At what age should the children take control of their inheritance? Are estate taxes going to consume a large part of the estate prior to distribution?
Your Senior Years
A typical married couple in their 60's or older are entering retirement, have significant savings with no debt and are in the process of simplifying their estates by selling their real estate or business holdings. The risk of death or disability is becoming more significant, and the consequences are still large. For example, is there a need to protect assets from potential long term care expenses if a spouse enters a nursing home? Is there a way to transfer the family business or family cabin to the children? How can you make sure the surviving spouse is adequately provided for on the disability or death of the first spouse? Are gift taxes and estate taxes going to consume a large part of the estate prior to distribution? What are the options to provide for a favorite charity?
In All Phases of Life
Planning for the Management and Disposition of Your Estate in the Event of Your Disability or Death
Estate Planning is a concept that can be most easily described as a process of identifying the assets owned by a family, and designing a plan to provide for management of those assets in the event a family member becomes incompetent and distributing those assets after the death of a family member. Contrary to popular belief, a competent and well thought out estate plan isn't just for the old and wealthy. Anyone who has assets can benefit from good planning.
Good estate planning is essential in order to minimize the impact of the disability or death of a family member. Some plans are quite simple, requiring only a basic Will, Health Care Directive and a Power of Attorney. Others are more complex, requiring family trusts, insurance trusts or family partnerships. All plans, simple or complex, should include counsel with trusted advisors such as accountants, attorneys, investment advisors and insurance agents and should be reviewed on a regular basis to keep them current with changes that occur over time.