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What else can life insurance do for me?

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Back to the John Tetzloff Blog
20
Jul

How to prepare to pass assets to your heirs

Posted by Margaret Cronin


Tags: 2012, estate plan,

Preparing an estate plan can initially seem like an overwhelming task: you need to consider your own needs, and the needs of your spouse, children, charities and other beneficiaries. You need to plan for incapacity, probate and taxes. If you have a large family asset, such as a family farm, cabin or business, planning can seem even more complicated.


 

Margaret Cronin is a shareholder in the estate planning practice of Stinson, Leonard, and Street Professional Association. She focuses on estate and charitable planning, cabin succession planning and business succession. Margaret graduated from the University of Notre Dame with high honors in 1993 and from the University of Minnesota Law School magna cum laude in 1996. Among other community activities, she serves on the Board of Advisors of the University of St. Thomas Family Business Center.


 

Start By Taking Inventory of Your Kingdom

The best way to get started in planning your estate is to make a detailed list of what you own and how it is presently titled. In addition, if you own an asset with a beneficiary designation attached to it, such as a life insurance policy or a retirement account, determine who you currently have named as your beneficiaries. If you need help taking inventory, consider tapping into your Catholic United Financial Representative as a resource to sit down with you and go through your assets.

Walk Through Different Scenarios

The next step is to walk through planning scenarios during your different life stages. For example, if you pass away while your children are minors, how should the guardianship of your children be handled? If you should become incapacitated, how should your financial assets be managed? Will your assets be sufficient to provide for your spouse if you should pass away first? If you have a large family asset to give to your children, how can you ensure that the asset will stay in the family for future generations to enjoy? Who can you trust to occupy the key roles in your estate plan and administer the plan with your intentions in mind? Again, your Catholic United Financial Representative or other professional advisor can be a helpful resource to you here. Try to focus most closely on scenarios that could happen in the next five years.

Hone in On Your Goals and Values

During the course of brainstorming different scenarios, you may learn that you do not have all of the answers figured out yet. Do not feel discouraged – what you will likely have accomplished is a vision of what is important to you. If you can, write down some bullet-points that describe your vision, goals and values. You may also want to talk with key family members about your ideas.

Seek Professional Advice to Identify Financial and Legal Options

If you have not already done so, the next step is to visit your professional advisors to review your financial and legal options. Remember that each person's kingdom is different, and your estate plan will be a unique fabric that is a compilation of your family situation, your assets, your vision, the current legal framework, and financial and legal solutions that are available to you.

You and your attorney should discuss probate (a legal process for transferring assets from a deceased person's name to his or her beneficiaries), state and federal estate taxes (taxes imposed by state and federal governments on the transfer of assets from a deceased person to his or her beneficiaries), and the exemptions from state and federal taxes that will apply to your estate. Your professional advisors should work together to create options and solutions. For example, if you identify that your primary goal is to pass your family farm to your children, and your attorney advises you that doing so would subject your estate to significant taxes, your life insurance advisor at Catholic United Financial may offer life insurance planning to provide liquidity in your estate to cover these taxes.

Decision-Making and Drafting

Only after your professional advisors have a true understanding of your situation should legal documents be drafted. Typically, these documents will consist of a Will, Revocable Trust, Financial Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive, and Personal Property List. You may have additional documents that effectuate specific planning goals, such as a Life Insurance Trust, a Cabin Trust, Charitable Trust or a Family Farm Partnership.

Implementing the Plan

Think of your professional advisors as a support team for your family members in carrying out your plan upon your death or incapacity. Taking the time to form a good estate plan now will facilitate a smooth transition of the keys of your kingdom to your individual and charitable beneficiaries in the future.

     

Copyright 2012 Catholic United Financial. This article originally appeared in the May-June 2012 edition of Our Catholic Journey, the official publication of Catholic United Financial. No portion may be reproduced in any type of media without the express written consent of Catholic United Financial.

     
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