Many of my clients come to me wanting to leave their affairs in order to ease the estate process for those they leave behind. However, in their preparation, I find my many often forget about the little things that can cause the most stress.
That’s why I suggest following three simple steps to ensure your estate planning is as streamlined as possible. First, prepare your agent and provide clear documentation. Next, consolidate your finances and organize your belongings. The final step is to engage with professionals. Employing accounting, financial and legal services now will pay off many times over for your survivors, avoiding extra effort after you’re gone.
As you work to streamline your finances—combining accounts and getting rid of unnecessary paperwork—it’s a good idea to consult a professional, especially when it pertains to your taxes. After you pass, your executor will need to file separate returns for the final income and, possibly, the estate taxes. Handling your own taxes is confusing enough. It will be much simpler for your survivors to complete yours if they can work alongside a professional who is familiar with your personal situation.
A financial planner is probably the most important person to have in your corner when it comes to estate planning. I find that some of my clients shy away from hiring an advisor because they fear steep fees and lack of expertise. These are valid concerns, but a credible, ethical financial planner will be a huge asset for your survivors. Trust me, the expense is worth the time and headache it will save your loved ones.
As I mentioned in my first blog, it’s important to provide your executor with a list of the institutions you’re involved with, but even the survivors of the most organized clients will need to call 1-800 numbers to learn and complete the necessary closing processes for each entity. This can be confusing and time-consuming, but the right financial planner will pick up some of that work, making those calls on the expedited “advisor line” to inform the appropriate contacts of your passing and finish proper forms to liquidate accounts. All your loved ones will have to do is sign! A financial planner can also work alongside your CPA and other professionals to ensure everything is accurate and finalized, tying all the pieces together.
The third professional to engage is an attorney. Like the financial planner, an attorney will get to know your family and situation. They will help you form Wills and Trusts so when you pass away, your survivors aren’t chasing their tails. Having formalized plans for your executor is especially helpful when close relatives or friends pass away within a short timeframe. Working with an attorney will ensure your final wishes are seamlessly carried out.
With regulations and piles of paperwork, closing an estate can be overwhelming even for the most savvy. Employing professionals who know these processes and work through them constantly is worth the expense. In dealing with these larger institutions, it’s nice to cooperate with someone in your neighborhood who is likely much easier to contact.
If you’re looking for legal professional in your neighborhood, or have other questions about how to streamline your estate planning, contact me today to set up a time to chat.