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Yes, You Do Have an Estate

Regardless of their actual financial standing, job title and income, many Americans—and probably most federal civil servants—would identify themselves as middle class.

The Word Yes Ripped Out of a MagazineWhat many people don’t understand is that yes, you do actually have an estate, and if all of its parts are added up, people have more assets than they think, says Federal News Network’s article “Your bigger-than-you-think estate.”

Many of us don’t realize that this is the case until after a loved one dies. When that happens, as it inevitably will, it’s far better to have planned for this eventuality than letting the courts, relatives, or the state decide what to do with what you possessed.

The trick is figuring out what you own and determining how you want it to be distributed after you die.

Someone who has worked all their life, has money saved in a 401(k) or other types of retirement accounts, and owns a home often has an estate with more value than they think.

So how do you begin? Yes, you do have an estate.  Start with this checklist:

Are your beneficiary designations up to date? Your beneficiary designations on financial accounts and policies supersede your will. Some of your largest assets are not controlled by your will, but by beneficiary designations. For federal employees, this includes the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI), and any other life insurance policies. Do you want your beneficiary to be a surviving spouse or your children?  Whoever is named as the beneficiary will receive those financial products, so make sure the named beneficiaries are correct and don’t conflict with your actual goals.

Is your will up to date? How about any trusts? Most people have their wills done and then forget about them. That’s always a big mistake. We experience changes in life, and our wills need to reflect those changes. Are the people you named as Personal Representatives (or executors) ten or twenty years ago still the appropriate people to help carry out your estate? Are they still alive and in good health? Make sure you also consider your children and their circumstances. If you have a child with special needs in your family, or if a child is going through a divorce, an estate planning attorney will be able to discuss the risks and help you plan for their situation.

Are your financial and medical directives in place? Making plans for incapacity is as much a part of estate planning as your will. If you became ill or severely injured and cannot make decisions for yourself, do you have the documents that will allow someone else to do so on your behalf?  If you don’t, your family will need to go in front of a Judge to be given legal authority to help you.

An estate planning attorney can work with you on all these matters so you can relax and enjoy your retirement. Don’t procrastinate—this task can be done before the year is out – if you start soon, that is.  Contact Us today to schedule your free initial consultation.

Reference: Federal News Network (October 2, 2019) “Your bigger-than-you-think estate.”

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