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Estate Planning Checklist

Make sure your estate plan includes these six critical items.

Malcolm Hong Jun 2, 2021

Regardless of financial status, every adult can benefit from an estate plan to help safeguard their assets and reduce stress on loved ones. Without an estate plan, important decisions about your assets will be made by state law and probate courts — and these decisions may not be aligned with your interests or your family’s needs.

Because private bankers have a comprehensive understanding of their client’s financial situation, they can be a valuable resource in the estate planning process. In addition, it’s wise to consult with a tax professional and others with experience in this area when creating a plan.

Private Banking relationship manager Mary-Kate Johnson shares insight on six critical items that should be included in any estate planning checklist.

Mary-Kate Johnson
Mary-Kate Johnson

Estate Planning Checklist #1: Will and Testament

A will and testament outlines your assets and how they will be distributed after your death. It also names who you wish to serve as the guardian of your children or oversee the estate planning process.

“Regardless of your net worth, a will and testament is essential,” says Johnson. “Most states follow the probate process, meaning that in the absence of a will, a court decides who gets your assets.”

Because the probate process can be expensive and time-consuming, a will can place your loved ones in a better financial position. Once a will is created, it’s also important to update it after major life changes, such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of a spouse or partner, or significant changes to income.

Estate Planning Checklist #2: Healthcare Power of Attorney (HPOA)

A healthcare power of attorney is a legal document that outlines your desires regarding medical care if you are incapacitated. This document explains your position on life support and the extent of medical intervention that is desired. It also gives a designated representative the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf.  

“An HPOA provides clarity in the worst-case scenario,” explains Johnson. “You want someone you trust to make life and death decisions — not a hospital staffer or someone appointed by a court.” 

Estate Planning Checklist #3: Financial Power of Attorney (FPOA)

A financial power of attorney authorizes someone to make your financial decisions if you are incapacitated. By preparing this document ahead of time, you can have a trusted person ready to step in and manage bill payments, investment decisions and other financial responsibilities.

“Powers of attorney are highly flexible and can be customized for your specific needs,” says Johnson. “Each state has different laws and a private banker can help you discuss the appropriate limits for this document.”

Estate Planning Checklist #4: Trusts

Trusts give you more control of your assets and allow your heirs to skip the probate process — saving them time, attorney fees and court costs. The downside is that they can be challenging to set up and require more time to actively manage. However, the benefits could be worthwhile for high net-worth individuals.

“Avoiding probate court could save your heirs 2 to 4 percent of your estate when legal fees are factored in,” Johnson says.

Estate Planning Checklist #5: Taxable Events

Estate planning will consider how your heirs will be impacted by taxes, including estate, capital gains and income tax.

“The tax aspect of estate planning is critical in preserving generational wealth,” says Johnson. “A tax professional can take a holistic look at your situation and help create a plan that maximizes benefits to your loved ones.”

Estate Planning Checklist #6: Philanthropy

If you want to make a lasting impact to a charitable organization, philanthropic giving could be part of your estate plan. Aside from making an important difference, charitable giving creates valuable tax benefits if done properly.

“Charitable trusts and private foundations are popular options we see from our clients,” says Johnson. “However, it’s important to remember these transactions are highly complex and require counsel from the skilled professionals in a private banker’s network.”
  
The Zions Bank Private Banking team provides concierge-style services to help  affluent individuals navigate the financial landscape. To speak with a Private Banking representative, call 801-844-7299 or visit your local Zions Bank branch.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.

Malcolm Hong is a Public Relations officer for Zions Bank.

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