What are your estate planning objectives? I’m not talking about immediate or tactical goals like buying a house, car or even starting a business.
No, I’m talking more about your long term goals. Do you want to be able to support your children through an ivy league education? What about graduate school? Or, provide care for your parents when they are elderly? Or, achieve financial freedom and independence for yourself? Maybe all of the above?
Those are the kind of estate planning ambitions I mean. And you need to decide on those before you can develop an effective estate plan.
Why? Well, if saving for college is the top goal you will likely want to invest in different things (i.e. Section 529 plan; education savings account, etc) than if early retirement (IRA; 401k; personal business) is the goal.
You would also want to think about what things you can do to put yourself in the best possible position to qualify for financial aid (i.e. by planning not to have your peak taxable earning years when you are applying for financial aid).
Of course no two people have identical estate planning objectives. The reason is that no two people are identical. Everyone has different goals, dreams, abilities, assets and liabilities.
Everyone has a different family situation. Might you need to provide for your children? Maybe one of them will need a Special Needs Trust.
And, what about your spouse? What income should your spouse have available if you should die? Medical care? How is that going to be provided for? Do you have any support obligations to people outside of your immediate family?
Inheritance? Is it important to you to leave an inheritance for your children? Or, do you think they’d be better off without one?
Charity? Do you want to leave part of your estate to charity? If so, how much and to whom?
And, remember to keep your objectives as flexible as possible. Things will change over time. Unexpected things will happen that will require changes in your estate planning goals and objectives.
Once you've figured out your estate planning objectives, you know where you want to go. But, to figure out what you need to do to get there, you first have to know the value, for estate planning purposes, of the assets you already have. To figure that out, go to Estate Planning 101.
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|--by Beth Heikkinen|
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