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The Simple Four Step Guide to Estate Planning

investing-my-money | Read Time: 3 minutes

By Garrett C. Spangler, J.D., LL.M. | Published: January 2022


The Importance of Creating an Estate Plan
Putting together an estate plan to ensure your family is well cared for in the future is important for everyone. Regardless of your level of wealth, taking stock of what you have and creating a plan to provide guidance to family and friends about your choices is imperative. Without it, a court may need to step in to authorize certain decisions on your behalf and state law to determine who will inherit your assets.

Everyone should take these four steps to ensure they have a plan in place.

Take Inventory
Everything you own is considered part of your estate and decisions should be made about how the various items should be handled. If you own a home or other real estate, determine if it should be passed to beneficiaries or sold and the proceeds added to your other estate assets. For jewelry, antiques, collectables, artwork or other assets, determine how they should be passed along and note where they are located, such as in a safe or safety deposit box. Gather recent statements for bank, brokerage, retirement, and any other accounts that you may have so your heirs know where your money is held, as well as any insurance policies and outstanding liabilities like mortgages, loans, and lines of credit. This information will be invaluable while creating your estate plan and for your heirs who will need to collect your estate assets.

Draft Estate Planning Documents
Meet with an estate planning attorney to help put together a comprehensive estate plan including Wills, Powers of Attorney, a Living Will or Advanced Healthcare Directive, and possibly one or more trusts if you have minor beneficiaries or a situation that might warrant additional planning. Consider who you want to inherit your assets and in what proportions, who should care for your minor children, the people you want to handle your financial affairs and medical treatments should you become incapacitated, who should be responsible for distributing your assets, and any end-of-life care preferences that you may have.

The attorney can discuss the pros and cons of these and offer advice regarding options available to you. They can also answer questions about the estate planning and administration process, and make a recommendation for the most efficient way to meet your goals.

Put the Plan into Action
After developing your estate plan there are some additional steps to ensure the plan is carried out as desired, including funding any trusts that you create and, if necessary, retitling property or assets into the names of the trusts. Also review all your financial accounts to ensure the beneficiary designations are current and reflect your wishes, even removing beneficiaries that may have been designated on non-retirement accounts to allow the assets to pass by the terms of your Will. Typically, an estate plan will include a reference to a memorandum which can be used to list certain tangible property and the names of the people you would like to receive it. If you are a business owner, you should also ensure that your estate plan and any business succession plan coordinate with each other.

Review and Update Your Plan
While initially preparing an estate plan is important, don’t forget to review the plan periodically (annually is best) to ensure it still reflects your wishes and to ensure the people you have named to help you and those you have selected to receive any assets still make sense. Any significant life changes such as getting married or divorced, children or grandchildren being born, a significant increase or decrease to your level of assets, or health changes may require changes to your plan.

In addition to periodically self-assessing your estate plan, check with your estate planning attorney approximately every 5 years. They’ll know if any changes to federal or state law could impact your plan and if your plan needs any changes as a result. A little extra time spent on estate planning can save you and your family a lot in terms of legal and tax efficiency after you pass away.

Planning Made Simple
The concept of estate planning often evokes ideas of complexity, high cost and being applicable only to the very wealthy, however everyone can benefit from an estate plan that ensures their goals are met and people they trust are appointed to help them both during their lives and after their passing.

About the Author – Garrett C. Spangler, J.D., LL.M.
Garrett Spangler is West Capital Management’s Director of Wealth Planning and leads West Capital Management’s Planning Committee. In his role, Garrett works with clients on a variety of planning areas such as trust and estate planning, wealth preservation, and income tax and liability exposure. Prior to joining West Capital Management, Garrett was an associate at The Erb Law Firm, PC practicing tax, estate, and business succession planning, with a focus on non-citizens and international planning for those with foreign assets. Garrett earned his law degree (J.D.) and Masters in Taxation (LL.M.) from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and his bachelor’s degree from Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business.

This communication is provided by West Capital Management (“WCM” or the “Firm”) for informational purposes only. Investing involves the risk of loss and investors should be prepared to bear potential losses. Past performance may not be indicative of future results and may have been impacted by events and economic conditions that will not prevail in the future. No portion of this commentary is to be construed as a solicitation to buy or sell a security or the provision of personalized investment, tax or legal advice. Certain information contained in this report is derived from sources that WCM believes to be reliable; however, the Firm does not guarantee the accuracy or timeliness of such information and assumes no liability for any resulting damages. Any reference to a market index is included for illustrative purposes only, as it is not possible to directly invest in an index. Indices are unmanaged, hypothetical vehicles that serve as market indicators and do not account for the deduction of management fees or transaction costs generally associated with investment products, which otherwise have the effect of reducing the performance of an actual investment portfolio.

WCM is the business name of WSFS Capital Management, LLC. It is an SEC registered investment adviser that maintains a principal place of business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Firm may only transact business in those states in which it is notice filed or qualifies for a corresponding exemption from registration requirements. For information about WCM’s registration status and business operations, please consult the Firm’s Form ADV disclosure documents, the most recent versions of which are available on the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website at WSFS Capital Management, LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of WSFS Financial Corporation.


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