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Ways to Protect Your Estate and Prepare for Your Future

Proper estate management is critical when working toward a more sound and stable financial life. From your wills to beneficiaries and beyond, estates require thoughtful strategies.

Yet, many Americans still haven’t protected themselves in the ways they should. In fact, only 40 percent of adults have a will or living trust. If you don’t have documentation in place to direct your wishes, the courts may decide what to do with your estate when you pass away.

Preparing for the future and adequately protecting your financial life take care and consideration. By starting with these tips, you’ll be on the path to creating a more stable foundation for your family.

Prepare to enjoy a long life.

Thanks in part to advances in medicine, we’re living longer than ever, meaning you will probably need to account for a longer life span than previous generations. Without thoughtful strategies, outliving your resources can be a real threat to your estate and your family’s financial standing.

Today, one-quarter of all 65-year-olds will live into their 90s – and 10 percent will live beyond 95 years old.

Furthermore, 20 percent of 65-year-olds today will need assisted care at some point in their lives for more than five years. As we age, our expenses increase. With long-term care costs continuing to escalate, you need financial strategies to help you prepare for longevity. Here is a snapshot of some of the annual costs to anticipate for your future: • Private room in a nursing home: $97,455

  • Semi-private room in a nursing home: $85,775
  • Home health aide: $49,192
  • Assisted living, one bedroom: $45,000

Preparing for these expenses with long-term care insurance can be a helpful strategy as you work to further protect your estate.

Review and update important documents regularly.

As life moves along, the details of your financial life will change, too. Reviewing your important documents can help ensure the details reflect where you are now and protect your future. For example, did you recently marry? Have a child? Lose a spouse? These factors can affect the beneficiaries of your account (among other details) and, without accurate documentation, create real difficulties for family members trying to settle estate details.

Do yourself and your family a favor by making sure your financial accounts and documents remain accurate as your life changes. In addition, new tax laws take effect this year that could impact your estate-planning strategies. Now is a good time to address what you may need to update in order to continue protecting your estate.

Consider addressing the following financial items:

  • Review retirement account details to confirm that your beneficiary listings are accurate.
  • Make sure you have adequate life insurance with the correct beneficiaries listed.
  • Designate transfer on death (TOD) details for accounts such as bank savings, CDs and individual brokerage accounts.
  • Update or revise your will to help ensure it reflects your current wishes.

Remember, any beneficiaries you name will override what you detail in your will. Make sure you have all the details aligned with your wishes in order to thoughtfully transfer your estate. – Try to avoid probate. People go through the probate process after someone dies and his or her estate must transfer to his or her heirs. The legal process is usually costly and cumbersome.

It may also involve the general administration of someone’s estate. Each state’s limits to probate vary, including the size of the estates that must go through the process. You will need to identify the specific laws based on where you live.

One way to possibly avoid probate is to set up your financial accounts to transfer on death (TOD). By doing so, you specifically assign who receives which assets and how much he or she gets. You may also be able to avoid the costly probate process.

Overall, probate fees add up and usually vary. Here are some fees to be aware of: • Accounting Fees: The amount you pay depends on your estate’s overall value and the type of assets you own.

  • Appraisal and Business Valuation Fees: You will pay these fees when identifying the value of assets like real estate, business interests and personal property.
  • Attorney Fees: These fees are similar to the personal representative fees, and costs depend on the legal firm and state requirement.
  • Court Fees: State laws define what fees you must pay, ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand or more.
  • Personal Representative Fees: These fees are paid to the estate administrator or executor, which state laws also define.

Your unique financial life and estate goals will drive the strategies that work best for you. Coordinating with a financial professional can help you proactively address your needs and protect your estate. Whether you have gaps to fill or you need to lay the foundation, remember that today’s efforts will help you prepare for tomorrow’s comforts. Contact us today!

James D. Hoyt is a Certified Private Wealth Advisor®, Certified Fund Specialist® and the Founder/CEO of Ascendant Financial Solutions, Inc. Securities offered through Geneos Wealth Management, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Ascendant Financial Solutions and Geneos Wealth Management, Inc. All investing and investment strategies involve risk including the possible loss of principal. Investment strategies cannot ensure a profit or protect against loss in a declining market.


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