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Back to the John Tetzloff Blog

Personal planning key to an estate plan

There are certain rules and options that we must play by

Posted by John Tetzloff

John Tetzloff, CLU, FICF, LUTCF, is the Catholic United Financial Advanced Case Specialist and Trainer. He leads estate planning seminars throughout the Upper Midwest and has more than 20 years experience in estate planning and financial preparedness.

One of the best aspects of my job with Catholic United Financial is the Estate Planning seminar. I have the wonderful opportunity to present basic estate planning ideas and concepts to Catholic United members and Catholics all over Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. In all my travels one common concern is the desire to make sure all the bases are covered in regards to three aspects of Estate Planning.

One aspect of Estate Planning that I discuss in my seminars is Personal Planning. I bring this topic up in the hope that you will think about your own plan and have a reaction similar to one of these: "My plan is well done and up to date" or "My plan could use a little updating" or "Wow, we really need to get a plan in place!"

Personal Planning deals with how we want to leave our assets upon our death. There are certain rules and options that we must play by when passing assets to our heirs. Knowing these rules and options is very important and will help in making good, educated decisions.

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One choice is which process we use to move our assets to our heirs. This can be done by the use of a will, by beneficiary designations or a trust. The type of asset you are going to pass down will determine which process is most appropriate for your planning. If a person elects to use a will to pass assets, the process involved is called "probate," which means the proving of the estate. This involves a court proceeding that will cost money, take time and be public knowledge.

Some people choose to bypass the probate process using one of the other two processes listed above.

One way to avoid probate is through the use of a beneficiary designation. A beneficiary designation will "prove" to the insurance company who you want the proceeds to be paid to upon your death, thus bypassing the probate process. You can also add a "Payable on Death" to your bank products, to accomplish virtually the same thing. Also, by adding a "Transfer on Death" to mutual funds, stocks and brokerage accounts you can "prove" ahead of time who you want the dollars to be paid to upon death.

One thing to make sure is that you name both a primary beneficiary and a contingent beneficiary on these types of assets. One mistake some make is only listing one beneficiary. If that beneficiary pre-deceases the insured, there is not another name to direct where the dollars are to be paid. If there is no clear beneficiary, then it has to be "proven" where the money is to go, which involves probate.

One other way to avoid the Probate process is through the use of a Revocable Living Trust. By re-titling assets to a trust and then directing the trust to whom and when assets are distributed takes away the need to probate as you are "proving" ahead of time and using the trust to direct assets. Trusts can be an excellent tool to use for the right reasons and for the right situations.

A good estate planning attorney is a vital part of the process and ultimately should be consulted in all legal matters. If you are considering updating your plan, creating a new plan, or just want to review, please consult your Catholic United Financial Sales Representative and they can assist in the process.

Reprinted from the March/April 2011 issue of Our Catholic Journey magazine. No portion may be reproduced in any type of media without the express written consent of Catholic United Financial and John Tetzloff.

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