Planning for the Future: Why a Comprehensive Estate Plan is More Than Just a Will

Serving as a Financial Advisor or Wealth Manager for an individual or family requires more than just knowledge and understanding of investment management. At Smith Anglin, we take our advisory role as a fiduciary very seriously and feel it is important to not only grow and preserve a client’s wealth but to do all we can to ensure that proper comprehensive estate planning is in place should any illness, disability, or other significant life event occur. 

As advisors, we’re often asked how to plan for the future in terms of: “Do I need an Estate Plan?” or “I already have a will, isn’t that enough?” First, anyone who owns property or expects to in the future should have a valid will in place, one which includes instructions to your personal representative or Executor regarding your wishes following your death, and outlining how you want your assets to be distributed or re-titled after your death.

A comprehensive estate plan – one including more documents than just a will – might be needed for reasons you may not have considered: 

  • Estate Taxes: Avoiding estate taxes is not an issue for many people, but potential changes in the law may make estate tax liability a consideration for you in the future.
  • Protecting your family: This is a crucial aspect of estate planning, especially if you have minor children. You want to be clear regarding who you want to raise your children and how they will be supported financially. Sometimes protecting adult children from themselves can be an issue as well.
  • Power of Attorney issues: Who do you want to carry out your wishes on your behalf? It’s important to designate qualified representatives to act in your place should you become incapacitated or are deemed incompetent. This can be accomplished with ancillary documents such as a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney. 

Once individual or family estate planning has been put in place and the documents have been executed, many people make the mistake of just filing the papers away somewhere or putting them in a safe deposit box. Sure, it’s important to store your critical documents in a safe place, but it’s also important to:

  • Share the Location of your estate plan with the applicable family members, representatives and executors, and any other interested parties who may need to know.
  • Review your estate plan every few years. It’s important to proactively review your estate plan every 5 or so years for any needed changes or revisions to beneficiaries or designated representatives. Changes to your estate plan may be warranted due to possible tax law changes, a move to another state, a recent death or divorce, or the addition of a new family member. 

It’s important to explain to your adult children and representatives what you wish to transpire if certain things happen. For example, in the event you suffer from an illness or disability, you want to have documents in place, like those mentioned above, along with a Living Will.  

  • Let those persons know whom you have designated to step in, if necessary, and tell them where your estate planning documents are located, and how to initiate the execution of your comprehensive estate plan.  
  • It often makes sense to provide copies of all or a portion of your estate planning documents to everyone who might be affected, which includes your beneficiaries and your agents. 
  • It would be advisable to let each interested party know who will be serving as Executor, and when applicable, Trustee, and provide your adult children with the contact information of your financial advisor and attorney. 

While we don’t prepare these documents in-house at Smith Anglin, we are happy to facilitate any meetings with your attorney and help advocate your wishes during the estate planning process. 

If you would like to discuss any of these issues in more detail or want more tips on how to plan for the future, please reach out to us today! 

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