Attorney-at-law Edgar Paltzer provides clients with legal advice on wealth structuring. This article will give an overview of the integral elements of a well-crafted estate plan.
Nobody knows what the future holds. However, planning ahead can help to maximise assets passed on to beneficiaries, ensuring that an estate is distributed in line with the benefactor’s wishes following their death.
The first step in creating a sound estate plan is preparing an inventory of all assets and liabilities, taking into account financial accounts, investment-related debt, insurance and annuities, digital assets and non-registered investments.
The benefactor then needs to consider their main objectives in drawing up the estate plan. This includes identifying who they want to inherit their estate; when those beneficiaries should receive their inheritances; and how they wish the assets to be transferred. For example, does the benefactor want to create a living trust during their lifetime or would they prefer a testamentary trust to be formed after their death? The benefactor also needs to consider whether they wish to retain a proportion of those assets, for example to give to charity or to put towards their own retirement plan.
Having evaluated their estate objectives, the benefactor then needs to identify the steps necessary to achieve those goals. Preparing a will is an essential element in estate planning, providing an outline of how the testator wishes their estate to be divided and who will oversee that process. A will is extremely important, as asset-holding structures may not cover every type of asset the benefactor wishes to pass on. In addition, other legal documents besides a will may need to be drawn up to cover every objective.
Seeking the advice of a trusted professional such as a lawyer, accountant or trust officer is prudent to ensure that the estate plan is properly executed. Wealth planners can provide a helpful overview of all available options, covering all aspects – from planning to asset distribution – as well as offering the benefit of their experience based on other cases.
Finally, it is vital for the benefactor to conduct periodic reviews, as circumstances and priorities can change over time. Periodic reviews are essential to ensure the estate plan still aligns with the benefactor’s objectives. In addition to monitoring personal and financial situations, it is crucial to keep abreast of changes in the law, as these may also call for revisions in the overall estate plan.