Estate Planning 101: Tackling Your Estate Plan

Written by Hunter Gimbel, Managing Partner and CEO of The Gaber Group


The decision to create an estate plan is important for all families, but it can also be very challenging. Often, the biggest obstacle families face initially is discussing their death and the deaths of family members. Estate planning design and implementation is not only complex, but can be highly emotional. Therefore, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the estate planning process before approaching a professional.

There are several life events that will trigger the need to create an estate plan for your family or business. While the appropriate timing is different for everyone, it’s important to consider what could happen to you or someone close to you in the event of a substantial life change. Below are some life events that can trigger the need for an estate plan and seeking professional guidance:

• Getting married.

• The birth of a child.

• The birth of a grandchild.

• The start of a new business venture.

• An increase in net worth.


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• Change in tax legislation.

• The death of a spouse or family member.

• Inheritance.

• Getting divorced.

• The sale of a business or property.

There is no golden rule as to when you should begin designing your estate plan; however, if any of the above scenarios are on the horizon for you or your family, it may make sense to start a conversation about it. While planning your estate may feel daunting, time-consuming and/or expensive, not having a plan can be detrimental financially and can add stress to the situation.

So where to begin? Estate planning is an ongoing process that should be monitored and reviewed annually. Here is a step-by-step process for designing an estate plan:

Step 1: Learn The Basics

The first step is to educate yourself on the basics of estate planning and to understand how the federal and state gift and estate tax laws may affect your assets.

Step 2: Identify Objectives

The second step is to outline your objectives and select potential fiduciaries (guardians, executors, trustees, final heirs, ages of distribution to children, gift and trust structures). In addition, you will want to complete a personal financial statement, which shows a breakdown of your assets and liabilities.

Step 3: Review Your Insurance

The third step is to review your existing life insurance to ensure it is aligned with and structured appropriately for your objectives. It may be time to consider life insurance as a strategy to protect your family and income, if you haven’t already.

Step 4: Finalize The Design Of Your Plan

The fourth step is to finalize your estate planning design, including your fiduciaries and types of legal structure (wills, trusts, healthcare proxy, etc.).

Step 5: Meet With Your Attorney

The fifth step is to meet with an estate planning attorney to review and make any necessary changes to your outline.

Step 6: Execute The Document

The sixth step is to execute and finalize all the formal documentation.

Step 7: Review Your Plan Annually

The final step is ongoing. To navigate new legislation and/or life events, it’s imperative that you review your estate on an annual basis with your advisor.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the estate planning process, it should feel easier to tackle. As long as you find the right professionals to guide and support you through each step, the outcome will put you and your family or business in a better position for the future.


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