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Beneficiary designation to estate plan

Ask around and you will find that many people don’t have an estate plan. They may not even know what makes up an estate plan. This was just the case today at a Starbuck’s. A question about an estate plan was met with question of “what is an estate plan?” This was followed by laughter that only debt would pass to the barista’s parents.

But then he mentioned Fidelity asking him to set up a beneficiary designation. In addition to inspiration for a blog post, this short exchange lends itself to a discussion of why beneficiary designations are not enough.

What makes up an estate plan?

An estate plan is a mix of documents that varies based on your circumstances. If you are a single person in your 20s like the barista, it might be a simple will, power of attorney and a living will. But these instructions ensure your wishes are known and can be followed if anything were to happen to you.

A parent of young children really needs to have a will to designate a guardian for minor children. Recently, a rollover crash took the life of a mother of young children. Apparently, she was not properly belted in her seat and was thrown from the vehicle. Her two young children survived, because they were properly restrained. This just illustrates that accidents can occur at any time.

For someone in their mid-50s with a successful family business or ranching operation an estate plan is going to be a little more complicated and may include one of more trusts. Having a child with special needs may also require a trust to ensure that necessary government benefits are not affected.

Why aren’t beneficiary designations enough?

Beneficiary designations are a start and should serve as a prompt to call and speak with an estate planning attorney. While they play a role in transferring assets from retirement and bank accounts, they are limited. For instance, who would make medical decisions for you if you were incapacitated? 

A friend once mentioned she felt like an adult after completing her estate plan. Each individual and family can benefit from a tailored estate plan. Find out more and schedule a time to put a plan in place.

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