The Investment Scientist

National Estate Planning Week

Posted on: October 21, 2013

ImageI bet you didn’t know that this week, the third week of October, is … drum roll please … National Estate Planning Awareness Week!

Seriously! Congress established it in 2008 in House Resolution 1499.

I only know this after getting an email from my estate planning attorney friend. I think you should read it as well.

According to the resolution passed by Congress, “Many Americans are unaware that lack of estate planning and financial illiteracy may cause their assets to be disposed of to unintended parties by default through the complex process of probate.” The resolution goes on to state that “careful planning can greatly assist Americans in preserving assets built over a lifetime for the benefit of family, heirs, or charities.”

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It is estimated that over 120 million Americans do not have proper estate plans to protect themselves or their families in the event of sickness, accidents, or untimely death. This costs many families wasted dollars and hours of hardship each year that can be minimized with proper planning.

Another startling statistic from the 2010 Industry Trends Survey of estate planners found that 62% of the respondents believed that many Americans do not plan because they have the erroneous assumption that estate planning is only for the wealthy.

Estate planning is important for adults of all ages, of all incomes, and of all net worths.

For young families, estate planning is particularly important, as those who stand to lose the most are their young children. In the event of the death of both parents, who will care for the children? Who will handle the affairs of the estate and ensure that property will be transferred according to the wishes of the deceased parents? If there is no estate plan or will, the courts will appoint a guardian for the children, and the guardian may be an individual who does not share the values and religious beliefs of the deceased parents.

Medical directives are important in the event of an unexpected illness or injury.

In the event of divorce and remarriage, how will property pass from the former spouse to the children living in a household with a stepparent?

In the event of the death of the primary breadwinner, is there sufficient life insurance coverage? Is there enough for income replacement to support the surviving spouse and children who were dependent upon the primary breadwinner for their daily maintenance and support?

Advanced age and substantial wealth are not the primary indicators of the need for an estate plan.

Finally, given the constantly changing law and our constantly changing lives, it is critical to review estate plans on a regular basis.

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Author

Michael Zhuang is principal of MZ Capital, a fee-only independent advisory firm based in Washington, DC. He is also a regular contributor to Morningstar Advisor and Physicians Practice. To explore a long-term wealth advisory relationship, schedule a discovery meeting (phone call) with him.



You may also get his monthly newsletter, or join his Facebook page for regular wealth management insights. Michael's email is info[at]mzcap.com.

Twitter: @mzhuang

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