Constant change and uncertainty are occurrences life presents to all of us. Even Benjamin Franklin acknowledged this when he stated in a letter on November 13, 1789, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” For the last 230 years, since Franklin expressed this declaration, reality remains unchanged. Soliciting a professional advisory team is the first step towards formulating estate planning and applying appropriate documentation for establishing a legacy.
Why is it then, that so often, there is a failure to take steps necessary to accomplish this goal? The multitude of surveys available indicate that the percentage of Americans, numbering between 52% to 58%, lack a will or some form of an estate plan. While these percentages vary demographically when one considers age groups, many individuals remain unprepared for the ultimate certainty.
According to surveys, the most common reasons for lack of action include procrastination and a clear vision of a plan. Experts suggest, imagining one’s own mortality leads to procrastination. Our demise is a grim topic to discuss. Further, a personal lack of clarity and vision of said planning engenders hesitancy. Since comprehensive planning entails complicated considerations which can prove overwhelming, it is imperative to seek out a team of professionals. They provide the insight and knowledge necessary to direct and assist in the process of implementing an estate plan.
Surveys show that more than 50% of Americans express difficulty in locating an advisor. The reality of a successful plan commences with a “team” of professionals. Consider a team comprised of your CPA who acts as the quarterback and the estate planning attorney who is the architect of the plan. A financial/retirement advisor and an insurance agent complement the group. All participants using their highly skilled expertise, provide varying thoughts and perspective. This collective group serves as your own “Board of Directors” assuring a comprehensive and satisfactory plan for your current and future circumstances.
The ever-changing tax laws necessitate creating a successful plan. Many of the laws contain provisions for scheduled changes. As a result, between 68% to 72% of executed plans are not current. Tax law changes and tax law sunset dates, life changing events such as marriage, divorce, birth, death and family strife necessitate the need for periodic estate planning reviews.
Tax avoidance, a very compelling reason for estate planning, is certainly not the only reason to make sure your affairs are in order. The thought that the size of an estate is too small and does not warrant planning may cause hesitation. However, a thorough estate plan includes more than just prospective taxes and beneficiary designations.
Appropriate documentation is critical. A Last Will and Testament, while a vital document of an estate planning process, it is not the only document of importance. Others include powers of attorney; both financial and medical, advanced healthcare directives, trust considerations and appropriate asset titling. Larger estates or professionals with liability concerns can incorporate asset protection planning as part of their estate plan.
Estate planning processes vary due to the complexity of the circumstances. Significant tools exist to assist in the creation of a successful personalized plan. Even in an environment of constant change, appropriate planning and professional guidance permit some degree of certainty. Our team provides peace of mind for the individual, and their family and heirs.
For further information or questions on this article, please contact the authors:
Steven Giorgione, CPA, Tax Partner (Las Vegas) at [email protected], and Craig Hay, Tax Partner (Denver) at [email protected]