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Estate Planning

Thompson Financial Group can assist established businesses and young entrepreneurs alike in updating your financial and estate plan after any life-changing event.

In the event of the birth or adoption of a child, a marriage or divorce, or other domestic arrangement changes, or a major windfall, or you have assets and a legacy to author, an estate plan can help protect your family and finances during your life, as well as after you die. We'll guide you through the necessary estate and financial planning changes to accommodate these major life events. And help you author your legacy to empower others to earn their dreams.  

7 Important Items for an Estate Planning Checklist:

1. Asset Inventory
Your estate plan starts with a catalog of what you own. It can be a bit daunting so do it one piece at a time. Don’t make overwhelming.  Manage it.

 First, make a list of tangible possessions. These typically include:

  • Housing—house, condo, land or other properties
  • Vehicles—cars, motorcycles, boats, aircraft
  • Collectibles—comic books, trading cards, rare coins, art, etc.

You also need to make a list of your intangible assets for your estate plan, which often include:

  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Certificates of deposit
  • Stocks, bonds and mutual funds
  • Life insurance policies
  • Retirement accounts—401(k) plans, individual retirement accounts
  • Health savings accounts
  • Proof of Business Ownership and a Business Valuatio

Once you’ve created your inventory you’ll need to estimate the value of each item, using appraisals, financial account statements, and other sources.

2. Wills and Trusts
Having a will ensures your money and property are distributed to beneficiaries according to your wishes. Make sure the wording in your will is consistent with the way you’ve allocated assets in other documentation, such as insurance policies or retirement accounts, to prevent it being contested. Without a will, your estate will be left in the hands of state officials. You can have a lawyer draft a will or you can prepare a valid one yourself, but you should have the document witnessed by two adults to prevent challenges to it. Any person may act as a witness to your will, but you should choose people who are not beneficiaries and have no stake in your choices. In some states, a will must also be notarized. Be sure to do a little research to find out what the rules are for your state. We strongly encourage engaging with an estate planning attorney to make certain your will is in good order and up-to-date.  Life changes and your will needs to change with you.

A trust allows you to designate portions of your estate to a trustee while you’re alive. Unlike wills, most trusts cover a specific asset, such as a piece of property, rather than your entire estate. A trust is often set aside for underage beneficiaries who can only claim it when they are old enough to manage assets.

3. Power of Attorney (POA)
A power of attorney designates someone to manage your financial affairs if you’re medically unable to do so. Your designated agent can act on your behalf in legal and financial situations when you can’t. This includes accessing and managing your assets, as well as paying your bills and taxes. Without a power of attorney, a court may decide what happens to your estate if you are found incapable of managing it.

4. Beneficiary Designations
Naming your beneficiaries is vitally important in your estate plan, because it often supersedes what’s in a will. People tend to forget who they’ve named on policies and accounts, or they don’t realize they have to name beneficiaries. How many times have we heard the story of an ex-wife getting a payout because she’s still a beneficiary on her ex-husband’s life insurance policy? Don’t let your money and assets go to the wrong person. The headache created for those surviving you can be most uncomfortable and lasting. Make sure your beneficiary section is always filled out and that you name backup beneficiaries in case your primary beneficiary dies before you. 

Like wills, trusts and power of attorney, if you don’t name a beneficiary, or the beneficiary is underage or dead, a court will likely decide what happens to your estate. Be sure to check your retirement and insurance accounts and update them if anything happens to the beneficiaries named. Reviewing and reworking your beneficiary arrangements is a fundamental part of our financial planning process with you.

5. Letter of Intent
A letter of intent is a document of instructions for your executor or beneficiary. Letters of intent can provide funeral details, special requests or directions for a particular asset after you die. This document is not considered a valid legal document, but it does help a judge understand your estate plan intentions, which will aid in the distribution of your assets. If it’s in writing, it happened. It not, it never did.

6. Guardianship Designations
A will or trust may include a guardianship clause, but if yours does not, you need to make sure you’ve selected a person to take care of your children should you pass away. Consider a guardian who has similar views to your own, has the finances to take care of your kids and is willing to raise them. A backup guardian should also be named. Be sure to document how you want your children raised and cared for. Without a guardian designation, a court may rule that your children be taken in by someone you would not approve of. They could also make them wards of the state, which means they’d go into the foster care system. The person whom you want as guardian may change over time. While writing your estate plan with our company in Seattle, WA, we can help guide you in considering whom and how to make a prudent selection.

7. Financial Professional
To ensure your estate plan is in good shape we can help anchor your team and guide in making sound decisions.  The team often includes a CPA, attorney and/or estate tax professional who can help make sure you’re on the right path, help you navigate state regulations and inheritance taxes, asset distribution and leave a legacy you author.  We’d be delighted to help.

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