Discussing death is unpleasant, but when it comes to financial planning, it is a crucial topic. When someone dies, his or her assets will be passed on to someone else and the purpose of estate planning is to make this process as seamless as possible. “But isn’t estate planning only for the very wealthy individuals?” Absolutely not! As a Lockheed Martin employee, you will find that doing proactive planning to transfer your estate will eliminate many headaches down the road and the process of estate planning benefits individuals of all ages and income levels. Quite simply, estate planning is the process of transferring assets efficiently and effectively through various documents and designations. In this post, we will focus on basic estate planning techniques only.

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Will

A will (sometimes called “last will and testament”) is the most common estate planning document and contains verbiage indicating who receives your assets upon death and/or who can manage the assets until final distribution. It is important to note that beneficiary designations (discussed later) take priority over someone named in a will. For example, if your sister is the beneficiary of your IRA but your will says that your wife is to receive the asset, your sister would be the one to inherit the IRA. In the event there isn’t a valid will (called “intestacy”), the court determines whom your property passes to according to state law.

Power of Attorney

  • The power of attorney is a very important document that allows someone (agent) to act on your (principal) behalf should you become incompetent. The two types of documents are the medical power of attorney and the financial power of attorney and they have the same purpose but in different areas. Let’s say your niece suddenly went into a coma and had to be rushed to the emergency room. Unless you have a medical power of attorney, you wouldn’t be able to instruct the doctors on how to proceed. A medical power isn’t necessary for a spouse, adult child, or for your parents because you can make health care decisions as an “adult surrogate”.
  • The idea is the same for a financial power of attorney, but this document only pertains to financial matters such as bank accounts, investments, etc.


Designation of Guardian

This document can benefit either your minor child or yourself. A designation of guardian with regards to a minor child designates who can take care of your child upon your incapacitation or death. A designation of guardian on yourself allows for someone else to provide care, supervision, food, clothing, and shelter for you, and may also consent to medical treatment on your behalf should you be declared incompetent by a guardianship proceeding. If someone in your family believes he/she should be the one taking care of your affairs, the family member could go to court to become your guardian. Spouses have priority in the appointment of guardianship and any powers of attorney become void upon the appointment of a guardian.  A guardian is required to provide annual reports to the court. Another benefit of a designation of guardian is the ability to name individuals whom you do not wish to serve in a caretaking role on your behalf. For illustrative purposes, let’s say John is unmarried and he doesn’t get along well with his brother Tristan. John has financial and medical powers of attorney naming his sister Stephanie as the agent. To prevent Tristan from ever having a chance of being in charge of his affairs, John chooses a guardian for himself and thus specifically eliminates Tristan from this role.

 

Directive to Physicians

Also known as a medical directive, advance healthcare directive, living will, advance directive, or personal directive, this document communicates your wishes about life-sustaining medical treatment (such as artificial life support) if such a need occurred in the future due to illness or incapacity. Further, a directive to physicians lets your healthcare team and loved ones know what kind of healthcare you want, or who you want to make decisions for you when you cannot. It is worth noting that a directive to physicians is not the same as a do-not-resuscitate order, which is a separate document that declares if you do or do not wish to receive CPR in an emergency.

Trust

A trust is a document in which title (or control) to an asset is given to a person or legal entity (trustee) for the benefit of another. The trustee then has a duty to hold and use the asset on behalf of the person who will receive the asset (beneficiary) and make decisions with the beneficiary’s interests in mind. Trusts are typically used when the property in question is to be handled under specific or broad circumstances, usually with more control or restrictions than a will. For example, you could place investments into a trust that your brother (trustee) manages, and the trust will pay out a regular income stream to your adult son (beneficiary) at a certain point in time. Trusts can hold a variety of assets such as real estate, bonds, stocks, cash, a business, etc.

 

Beneficiary Designation

You may already be familiar with beneficiary designations since you probably have one set up for your Lockheed Martin 401(k). A beneficiary designation is simply a selection you make on a bank account, investment account, or another type of asset that indicates who will receive the asset upon your death. Without beneficiary designations, your assets will likely pass to your surviving spouse or your estate.

At Strittmatter Wealth, our Lockheed Martin Retirement Specialists engage in estate planning as part of our range of services. We will take a look at your financial situation to help you determine what estate planning measures are most appropriate for you and we will even provide attorney recommendations! We work closely with reputable attorneys to provide for the unique estate planning needs of our clients. Everyone needs an estate plan and we are eager to help with yours, so give us a call when you are ready for the next step. Also, feel free to browse our upcoming estate planning workshops.

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Be sure and check back next week for more incredibly valuable information. Cheers!

Disclosures*

Financial Planning and Investment Advisory offered by SWMG, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor.

Lockheed Martin Retirement Specialist is not an official title or professional designation nor is it conferred by Lockheed Martin on any individual or company.

Our Complementary consultation and free report are for informational purposes only and provided free without any obligation to utilize or retain our investment advisory services.

SMWG, LLC is not affiliated with or endorsed by Lockheed Martin Corporation. Our expertise comes from working with LMT employees for several years and helping them to retire with confidence.

Investing involves the risk of loss, including loss of principal. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investment products are not FDIC insured, have no bank guarantee, and may gain or lose value. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that any specific investment will be profitable for a client’s investment portfolio.

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