When it comes to estate planning, getting organized is vital - Albuquerque Journal

When it comes to estate planning, getting organized is vital

Thinking about the future is bittersweet. It can be difficult to accept the aging process, especially if you look too far ahead, but it can also be exciting to consider the prospects of retirement and legacy. No matter the mental approach, organization and planning are key to a comfortable future for you and your family.

In order to relieve some stress that comes with the natural progression of life, it’s important to address various forms of financial and legal paperwork. Yes, paperwork sounds grueling, but it’s essential, and better taken care of sooner rather than later.

Karin Vandevenne Foster, founder of Trevari Law PC, said, “At the end of the day, we’re all getting older, and we all need to get those legal documents done to provide the safety net for ourselves, and then help our kids out when they actually inherit from us.”

Topics such as wills and health directives are tough to address at a personal level, especially if you’re still young and in good health, but anything can happen.

“It’s really important to get the health care directives in place so that your family members can actually be advocates for you,” Foster said. “Because of all the legal limitations on privacy with health care information, you shouldn’t just leave it to chance that a family member will be able to speak on your behalf should you not be able to speak for yourself, so you should get those documents in place.”

Foster added that COVID proved unexpected moments can have major effects regarding the legal aspect of estate and health issues.

Another document to consider focusing more on is a will, which appoints a nominated person to manage the distribution of assets when you die. However, beneficiary designations can become complex depending on how many and what types of assets you possess. Foster explained that “there’s a lot of misinformation out there about what a will, will actually do for people.”

“A will is a good document if you intend to go through probate,” she said. “If you don’t want to go through probate, then you need to do more than just have a will.”

A will cannot manage assets such as investments or life insurance, so understanding the full scheme of multiple designations is vital. Foster said estate planning not only provides a legal framework and a safety net for your family, but gives you an opportunity to get organized.

“By doing estate planning … you’re forced to review all of your assets.” Foster said.

Managing finances

Money becomes more of a major topic as a person ages, and their financial situation can become more complex. This may lead to individuals overlooking important information regarding their investments, such as digital assets.

David Hicks, partner and investment adviser at Oakmont Advisory Group, explained, “The way you structure your investments are really important in the sense that there’s different taxable implications for different types of investment accounts, and so those will all pass to your beneficiaries differently.”

He added, “Make sure that your money is going where you want it to go … as efficiently as possible.”

Hicks stressed the importance of getting organized early and recommended making a checklist. The process starts with understanding the relationship between different accounts and their respective options, as well as where all your assets are held. He suggested looking into setting up a digital vault as a way to digitize documents so they’re all organized in one place.

“A big role of the financial adviser is to make sure that your assets are organized and that you can see everything holistically,” Hicks said. “It’s good for you as the owner of the accounts and for your financial life, but then to have a record of that and a secondary location or contact, so if something were to happen, someone else would know these things.”

It’s difficult to accept, and there’s also a level of trust that needs to be embraced, but both attorneys and financial advisers can help with estate planning. They also have the experience to help people overcome obstacles.

Stress relief

One of the main issues people face when it comes to estate planning is their emotions. Just having a conversation with family members about wills, money and death is difficult enough.

“The more open conversations you can have while you’re alive with your adult kids and your kids, I think it bears well for a smooth transition,” Hicks said. “Having an open dialogue about it kind of helps so there are no surprises.”

Foster added that there is a psychological barrier that must be considered, and eventually conquered.

“It’s a different type of conversation … talking about your eventual incapacity, which can be a very messy situation, and death,” she said. “At some point, you need to set it up so that people you trust will be making those decisions for you.”

Both Hicks and Foster reiterated the importance of organization, but also reassured people that the process doesn’t need to be too time-consuming. It all depends on the number of assets a person possesses.

Foster shared that her firm can get a complete estate plan done in a month, though it’s not the legal documents that complicate the process, but rather the assets.

Hicks added that when it comes to financial advice, his firm can help build a plan in a matter of hours.

There’s no law that says life has to get harder as time passes. Firms like Trevari and Oakmont are there for people to help them get organized and alleviate some stress that comes with aging. This way, you can enjoy your golden years with the assurance you, your family and your estate are protected.

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