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Estate Planning Topics
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John Tetzloff, CLU, LUTCF, FICF, is Catholic United Financial’s Advanced Case Specialist and Trainer. John hosts seminars, meets with members and Sales Reps, and hosts the radio talk show “Creating Wealth Beyond Money,” which features discussions on estate planning and long-term wealth. John is not an attorney or tax advisor, and recommends his clients visit these professionals before making any decisions with legal or tax implications.
Q. What is an estate? Who has one?
A. A person’s estate is all the assets owned by that person -- a house, real estate, life insurance, annuities, investments, cash in the bank, car -- whatever it amounts to. Everybody has one. If you own any assets, you have an estate to plan. Some are larger than others, but they’re all important. That’s what we try to tell people. It’s important for all people to plan ahead because whether you have a little or a lot, you need to give direction.
Q. What exactly is an estate plan?
A. A true estate plan makes sure your wishes are known. How do you want to pass your estate on to your heirs? When we craft an estate plan, we help you understand all the rules associated with making your wishes known, protecting your assets and making sure those assets get to where you want them to go.
Q. Why don’t more people make an estate plan?
A. I think people don’t make an estate plan because they think they don’t have enough. I also think a lot of the time people are scared to write down what they own because they don’t know what’s going to happen. But an estate plan has flexibility built in so it can change with your situation. A lot of people are afraid of the legal aspects and the costs associated with that, and that’s what we talk about. And frankly, a lot of people don’t like to talk about dying and planning for death. We help people find the courage to talk about it. Seventy percent of people don’t have a plan in place for when they die. And of those we meet who do have a plan, it’s usually 10 to 15 years old.
Q. Who suffers most when you don’t have an estate plan?
A. The people who suffer most are the heirs, because you’re leaving decisions for them to make at a time when they should be free to grieve. And the larger the estate, the more decisions they need to make. So your children are left wondering what you wanted. Most states have intestacy laws if you die without a plan. These laws are based on statistics and facts such as what percentage of your estate goes to a spouse if a spouse is present and what percentages go to children. Your estate may get divided up in ways you never intended. The courts may also have to appoint a guardian for your children and an executor of your estate, and again, you get no say if you don’t leave your instructions written down.
For the same reasons, it’s also the heirs who benefit the most when there is a plan in place. They get the peace of mind knowing that this is what Mom and Dad wanted, instead of guessing or fighting it out or letting Uncle Sam decide.
Q. You mentioned earlier protection of assets—what do you protect them from?
A. We could have the best plan in the world, but if we don’t protect assets from a long-term illness, a nursing home stay or excessive taxes, it’s all out the window. All those things come into play. To protect those assets in advance is part of an estate plan. So immediately, we emphasize protecting the estate so you still have assets to go through your estate plan to your heirs.
Q. What’s the process? What’s the first step?
A. The first step is realizing that you need to make a plan. The second step is contacting your Sales Representative, and he or she—or I or both of us—will have a couple meetings with you. The first meeting is usually to determine what goals you have. Then the next is to make recommendations and help set up the plan. After that, we’ll recommend if you should see an attorney or an accountant, and if so we can go with you or help you set up a meeting. And after that we usually meet one more time to make sure you don’t have any more questions, and that you understand and are comfortable with the plan you’ve put in place.
The planning process is actually easier than it sounds. It can take less than a month from start to finish. The most import thing is that we make sure you understand how to protect your assets for your heirs, and that your wishes for those assets are carried out.
Q. What does “Advanced Case Specialist” mean?
A. Well, I work with members and Catholics in general to explain and help understand estate planning, and I work with our Sales Representatives to teach them about that sort of thing. I’ve been in the financial services industry for 25 years and that’s where I’ve always focused: estate planning and charitable giving. The biggest thing I can bring to the table is making difficult concepts easy to understand so clients can make informed decisions.
The time to plan for your estate is now! Estate planning advice is a free, value-added service available to members of Catholic United Financial. Protect your assets for your heirs by contacting your Sales Representative today. Click here to find your local Sales Rep.