Brussel sprouts, okra, green beans, roasted with olive oil, Italian herbs, crushed red pepper – does this sound delicious? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s definitely good for you. I ate my Georgia farmers market vegetables tonight as an investment in future good health.
Estate planning is sort of like eating veggies. It isn’t always fun but pays long term dividends. Here are a few estate planning veggies for your plate:
- Understand the types of assets you currently own. Do you have IRAs, taxable investment accounts, annuities, real property in Georgia or other states, employee stock options, universal life insurance? Do you understand the basic characteristics of each asset and what it brings to your table?
- Understand which of your assets are “probate assets” and which “pass outside probate”. Your Last Will and Testament will not override beneficiary designations on many commonly held assets such as IRAs and life insurance policies.
- Some decisions have major tax consequences. Test your assumptions.
- Know whether your jointly held properties and accounts are joint “with right of survivorship” or not, and exactly what happens to each asset if one of you dies. The results may surprise you.
- Don’t make beneficiary elections casually.
- Review your estate plan (including beneficiary designations) every few years as your life changes – marriages, divorces, births, deaths, issues relating to aging all make a difference. What worked well last year might be disastrous ten years from now.
- Is a Last Will and Testament, Revocable Living Trust, or a combination of estate planning tools most suitable for your Georgia or South Carolina estate? Have some understanding of the rationale behind your plan.
Fortunately, like eating your veggies on purpose, you can almost always make improvements to your Georgia or South Carolina estate plan. The best plans are the result of a lifetime of good habits and a series of good decisions. But you don’t have to eat all of your veggies at one time; successful estate planning is a process of continuous improvement. Better decisions today will bring better results tomorrow. Today’s veggie might be as simple as tweaking a beneficiary designation or asset allocation. Tomorrow’s veggie might be touching base with your legal and financial advisors to see if you are still on course or need a mid-course correction.
Never hesitate to ask questions. If you aren’t comfortable, seek another opinion. Eat your veggies. And end the day with a nice piece of dark chocolate!
© Karen S. Hindson, Hindson & Melton LLC, October 4, 2013