Understanding the Three P’s of Estate Planning
#1 – People
Who are the important people in your life? What may come to mind are your various loved ones. For most of us, this includes your spouse if you are married, your children if you have them, as well as any parents and grandchildren one may have. Beyond these, however, “important people” also could include charities, special causes, colleges or universities, or churches to which you are committed. For some, “important people” could even include pets. Spend some time thinking about the impact others have had on your life. Make a list and jot notes if you like. This is where the planning process truly begins.
#2 – Property
By property we mean your assets in general. Make a list of the assets you own or control. At this point, you do not need to identify insurance policy numbers and exact dollar values. Rather, think through your assets in terms of their nature (cash, stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.). Next, determine the value and ownership interest in each asset. In other words, do you own assets in your name only, in joint tenancy with someone else, through a trust agreement, or perhaps some other arrangement? Be sure to include often-overlooked assets like life insurance (the death benefit and the cash value), business interests, and any inheritance you may expect to receive.
#3 – Plans
After identifying the important people in your life as well as your property, consider making a plan to ensure those people and property are sufficiently secure in the event of your own incapacity or death.
Who would you name to make decisions for you if you could no longer do so yourself? Would the same person handle your finances and your personal healthcare decisions? Who would care for your minor children? How would you distribute your assets to your heirs? Would you prefer to spare your loved ones the potential cost and hassles of the probate process? Would you like to minimize the impact of estate taxes or maximize the impact of a charitable bequest? Is there someone in your family with special needs for whom you would like to provide? Is there someone who perhaps should not receive a great deal of (or any) money without some outside oversight?
These are just a few of the issues to consider when approaching the planning process. They are much more important than the “treasure hunt” for legal documents at this stage.
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