Steps to Successful Estate Planning

Don’t Let Uncle Sam Take Your Hard Earned Savings!

Whether you think of yourself as rich or poor, or somewhere in between, you can make a difference in your community with simple financial and estate planning.  Most of us realize the importance of planning. The success of your plan is often related to the amount of thought put into the details of your plan. The better the planning, the greater degree of success you will enjoy in the long run.

Yet when it comes to the financial future, most of us fail to plan adequately. The most common reason found for this failure is simple procrastination. Other reasons given are the reluctance to seek assistance of a financial advisor or the unwillingness to tackle the complex area of financial and estate planning.

Let’s simplify the process and hopefully make it easier to overcome the procrastination, reluctance and complexity of planning for you and your loved ones’ financial futures.

The Five Steps of Planning

1. Take some time to think about what is important to you.
What would you like to accomplish financially? Putting these goals and objectives down on paper can make them more manageable. List the names of the people for whom you would like to provide income or assets now or in the future. Included in that list would be family and, perhaps, friends and employees.  You might wish to include favorite charitable interests such as your hometown.

2. Complete a list of all the property you own and how you own it.
In addition to real estate, include cash, investments, automobiles, life insurance policies, retirement plans, jewelry, equipment, livestock and any collections of value. Estimate the value of each asset and subtract mortgages and other debt to calculate your net worth. This is important in estimating possible estate taxes.

3. Match the people and charities you want to benefit with the properties or amounts you want them to receive.
Many tools have been developed for your use to transfer property to family and charities such as your hometown’s Community Foundation for a tax-favored basis. If you would like to leave a charity in your will, please feel free to use this Succession Plan Questionnaire  to help you discuss your goals with your professional advisor.

 4. Make a list of the persons who will help you put your plans into effect.
The cornerstone for a good financial and estate plan is a well-thought-out and written will. Trusts, living wills, a power of attorney for finances and other business-related matters, a power of attorney for health care, insurance and other plans serve important purposes in some situations. An attorney can help you draft the needed legal documents. An accountant, banker, life insurance professional, investment advisor and a representative of the PineBelt Foundation or other organizations that you wish to remember may play important role in helping you accomplish your goals.

If you do not have an attorney or financial advisor, ask the PineBelt Foundation, friends or relatives for suggestions. Before your first meeting you should feel free to discuss the cost of planning with the attorney or financial advisor. The cost of drafting wills and trusts is reasonable. By following the above steps and having a written summary of your plans can save you expenses because an attorney can prepare your will and other documents at less cost when working from written goals that you provide.

5. Implement your plans!
Unless you put the plans you have made into place, your planning will be for naught. Communicate your plans to those people and organizations you want to benefit. By communicating your desire to help your community or favorite organizations they can assure the fulfillment of your wishes. Plus, it provides an opportunity to say “thank you.”

The old saying “Pay me now or pay me later” applies to the cost of financial and estate planning. The cost of drafting wills and trusts is reasonable when compared to the potential savings in reduced taxes and other estate settlement costs, not to mention the peace of mind that it brings you.

Once those steps are completed, you will get a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that your plans for you, your loved ones and your community and organizations that are important to you will be accomplished.

Please let the Greater PineBeltCommunity Foundation know if you plan to leave them or your favorite charities in your Will.  We will add you to our Legacy Society Membership! 



Please talk to your Professional Advisor about your estate planning or Theresa Erickson, Executive Director at or call 601.583.6180.