If you already have an estate plan in place, it does not always guarantee it addresses all of your current needs and intentions. Life is fluid. Circumstances change, often unexpectedly, making it important to protect yourself and those you love. This is why we encourage you to review your estate plan at least every five years, or more frequently.
If you don’t have an estate plan in place, please don’t procrastinate. We often tell our MPPL Financial clients that they are never too young to have an estate plan. If you have minor children or expect to have children in the future, it’s important to have at least a simple estate plan that provides for their care and protection.
Whether you’re reviewing an existing plan or embarking on your first plan, here are the questions every estate plan needs to answer. These questions will help you thoughtfully crystallize and articulate your wishes about protecting yourself and those you love, today and in the future before meeting with an estate planning attorney.
Questions to Consider Before Meeting with an Estate Planning Attorney
- Who have you chosen as the guardians of your minor children? We encourage clients to consider the values and character of the individuals they appoint.
- Do your choices for designated health care directives and powers of attorney represent individuals you have high confidence in to act according to your wishes?
- How do you want to treat your children? How children are treated is one of the most sensitive topics we encounter when helping clients prepare an estate plan.
- Do you treat children equally during your lifetime as well as when assets from the estate are distributed?
- How do you treat more successful versus less successful children?
- How do you treat responsible versus irresponsible children?
- Do you have a child or grandchild with special needs, requirements for medical care, or circumstances that may warrant an unequal distribution of assets? If so, how does your estate plan address those needs?
- Do you want to protect assets from your child’s current or future spouse? If so, are there appropriate measures in place such as prenups or trusts to protect assets earmarked for your child?
- What if there are multiple marriages for you, your spouse, or your children? How do you want to address the distribution of your assets in such situations? While it may be difficult to imagine this could happen in your family, we often encounter these situations more often than not where no advance planning or thought was given to multiple marriages.
- If young children or grandchildren are involved, how do you want them to access funds distributed from your estate? The children’s age and maturity level often factor into decisions in this area, as do your values around when it is appropriate for them to receive funds.
- How will you protect distributed assets from potential creditors? We live in a litigious society. Accidents happen and surprises occur, so it’s very important to ensure your estate plan addresses these types of unanticipated situations.
- Are any existing trusts you have in place appropriate for how your family has evolved over time? “Dusty trusts,” those older than five years should be reviewed, along with all estate planning documents, to keep up with family needs and any new (or potential) legislation since they were established. An estate planning attorney can update such documents to reflect changing needs and state laws.
- What type of impact do you want to make in society? Some clients have the means to make meaningful charitable gifts throughout their lifetimes. For others, it may be best to give in smaller amounts and then leave any larger gifts as a bequest after death. We work closely with clients to determine what’s best for their personal situation.
How MPPL Financial Can Help
The questions we raised are not easy or straightforward for most to answer. That’s why, at MPPL Financial, we work closely with clients before they meet with an estate-planning attorney to draft new or updated documents. We have candid conversations about these questions, while also preparing a written financial plan the client can rely upon and share with their estate-planning attorneys
The plan includes three key elements:
- Documentation of lifetime and legacy goals and wishes
- Specific ways the client can accomplish their lifetime and legacy goals
- A balance sheet that lists all of their assets, with current values and ownership structure
This plan clarifies how they want to live their lives, along with the legacy they want to leave behind. It also helps the estate-planning attorney accomplish their desired outcomes more efficiently.
If you would like to revisit an existing estate plan or initiate one, we encourage you to reach out to us so that we can help ensure your estate plan addresses the questions that are important to you and your family.
MPPL Financial has offices in Duluth, MN, Grand Rapids, MN, Wausau, WI, and Crystal Lake, IL. While we’re based in the Midwest, we work with clients across the U.S.
Investment Advisory Services offered through Midwest Professional Planners, Ltd. (“MPPL”), 2610 Stewart Ave., Ste. 100, Wausau, WI 54401, 1-800-236-6775, an SEC-registered investment advisor.