In my former life as a financial consultant, I worked with business owners regarding the continuity of their business in the event of their premature death. Most of the business owners were in their 50’s and 60’s while I was in my late 30’s. They shared with me not only their concerns about their business but also the needs of their family after their death.
As I drove away from these appointments, I would think that I had plenty of time to plan my own estate. After all, I was married but with no children. I was renting an apartment and in debt with car and credit card payments. In fact, if the truth be known, I had nothing to plan.
Now being much older, with five children, seven grandchildren and another one on the way, estate planning is much more important to me. And it should be important to many of my current, older real estate clients because as I have gotten older, so have they.
While I no longer operate as a “financial consultant,” many of the older people I meet today are planning to downsize as they prepare for retirement, if not retired already. Most have already experienced the “empty nest” syndrome and need some estate planning strategies.
I think one of the first thing they need to do is to form what I call an estate planning team. You may ask, “Who should be on this team?” Depending on the size of your estate, you should consider the following: (1) financial planner (2) accountant (3) insurance agent (4) attorney. You may find that some play a double role. For example, the financial planner could be licensed to sell insurance. There are pros and cons to this. I have also met attorneys that are also accountants (CPA’s).
Before meeting with many of these professionals, you need to gather certain information. For example, do you have a will? If so, when was it written. Has anything changed in your life since it was written? What insurance policies do you have and in what amount? What property is in your estate (both real and personal) and what is the value of that property?
You will also need to define your goals. What are you trying to achieve? What needs will your spouse or children have financially, physically and emotionally? Is estate tax reduction part of your goal? Are you concerned about elderly parents? You need to talk candidly and honestly about personal and sometimes…even painful…matters with your estate planning team. Intentionally leaving someone out of your will can be painful.
You will need to treat your estate planning activities as a process. From having no estate plan at all to ending up with a well-thought out estate plan. The final plan must be monitored yearly or sooner as family and business situations change.
If you need help in determining who should be on your team or if you want to talk about downsizing, give us a call at 252-257-4822.