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VOL. 132 | NO. 125 | Friday, June 23, 2017

Dana and Ray Brandon

Estate Planning – It’s Not Just Taxes

By Ray and Dana Brandon

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Ray’s Take: Many people think estate planning is only for the super wealthy, but that’s not the case. Do you have a home? Children or grandchildren? Elderly parents? Bank accounts or other assets? If you have any of these, you need an estate plan. And it’s about more than just taxes.

An estate plan helps protect your family when – not if – you pass away. There are a number of things to include in estate planning.

A big item is a last will and testament. According to a Gallup poll, only 44 percent of Americans had a last will and testament in 2016. This is the document that tells everyone your final wishes and yet over half of Americans have not made a will. That leaves a lot up to chance, court fees and possible legal battles.

You can name beneficiaries on tax-deferred accounts, and those will pass directly to the specified individual outside of the will. Things like life insurance and retirement accounts fall into this category as well. But you can’t name minors. Further, a pile of cash with no strings attached falling into the hands of a college student may not be in their best interest. Without a named beneficiary on these accounts, they will pass into probate, and if you don’t have a will, your state will write one for you, and you might not like it.

It’s important to review your estate planning documents regularly to make sure you’ve designated people where needed and want to keep the same beneficiaries. For example, if your executor, trustee or guardian has moved across the country, you’re likely better off naming someone local. You’ll also want to review your estate plan every time there’s a major life event, such as the birth of a child or grandchild, the death of a parent or a divorce.

These are only a few of the items in a good estate plan. An attorney or financial expert can help you set up your estate plan so that your assets go where you want rather than where a judge designates.

Dana’s Take: Estate planning is planning what to leave behind and to whom. But what about the impressions and memories you will leave with family and friends?

I read about a retired CEO who made a mission to thank all of the people in his life who helped him along the way. First, he wrote to each person and asked to meet face-to-face. Then he flew or drove to meet each one. Imagine the joy he spread by expressing his gratitude.

Ray’s father, Denby Brandon Jr., also made a lifelong habit of expressing appreciation to clients, friends and loved ones.

It’s never too late to create a legacy of gratitude.

Ray Brandon, CEO of Brandon Financial Planning, and his wife, Dana, a licensed clinical social worker, can be reached at brandonplanning.com.

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