Blog | Estate Planning Essentials

Most people think a will is all there is to estate planning. In reality, a proper estate plan covers every step your loved ones need to take should you be unable to control any aspect of your health or assets, even if you’re still alive but incapacitated.

Do you have a proper estate plan? The estate planning experts at Vickney & Associates share five essentials to help you have one:

1. Do an Inventory

Make a list of all your tangible assets and intangible assets. Tangible assets are “things” you have such as your home, land, other real estate, vehicles, collectibles, or other personal items you value. Intangible assets include savings accounts, retirement plans, financial investments, and business ownership. Your list should include the estimated value of each asset so you can determine your total worth and how you’d distribute it.    

2. Designate Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries are the individuals who will receive value from a person’s assets through a will, trust or life insurance policy. Determine who the beneficiaries are of your will and trust; but also look at each component to make sure you have the proper beneficiaries designated. That includes any retirement plans or insurance policies. Once you designate beneficiaries, designate contingent beneficiaries, as they are equally important should your primary beneficiary pass away before you do. 

3. Determine Directives

Your estate plan should include the following directives:

  • A medical directive in a living will, which spells out your medical care wishes if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. 
  • A durable power of attorney allows another person to manage all of your finances  (paying bills, bank transactions, etc.) should you be medically unable to do so. 
  • A limited power of attorney is used if you’re concerned about turning everything over to one individual, as it limits the powers of your designated representative.
  • A living trust designates where portions of your estate go while you’re alive, and then transfers over to your designated beneficiaries when you pass away.   

4. Consider Estate Tax Laws

Make sure you take the federal as well as any Wisconsin estate tax laws into consideration when you’re planning your estate. Note that federally in 2019, estates up at $11.4 million are exempted from federal estate taxes.  

5. Account for Life’s Changes

It’s called a “living” estate plan because it should follow the course of your life. Birth, marriage, death, divorce, purchasing new homes, new jobs or a termination…these big life moments can impact your assets and should be reflected in your estate so it’s current. Revising your estate plan takes time, but it’s time well spent in the long run for your loved ones.

Trust Your Estate and More to Vickney & Associates

If you have any doubts or concerns about the estate planning process, let the professionals at Vickney & Associates help. From tax preparation to payroll, our team has nearly 50 years of combined experience serving families and businesses throughout Southeastern Wisconsin. We look forward to serving you—call 262-673-6322 or email us at [email protected].