Estate Planning: Before you Begin

Leaving a proper legacy has become a science. Here are the basics to help get you started. A person's legacy cannot be measured by one solitary event in his or her life. Rather, legacies, like ...

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Leaving a proper legacy has become a science. Here are the basics to help get you started.

A person's legacy cannot be measured by one solitary event in his or her life. Rather, legacies, like lives themselves, must be measured as a whole. If you've ever taken a step back and examined your own life and legacy, what have you found?

Do you feel comfortable with what you'll leave behind? How do you want people to remember you when you're gone? More importantly, how can you make sure people remember you in death, as you were in life? Estate planning has become an important tool in deciding how your life's work will be viewed. Without it, the courts will decide who gets what. With the proper planning, you decide what individuals or charities receive your assets.

There are a few basic tips to estate planning that will help you formulate a proper legacy. The first, and most basic choice, (but one of the most important), is to choose a financial professional who can help guide you through the process. Estate planning is tricky and by enlisting the help of a professional you help ensure your planning is done properly and efficiently.

The second is a small amount of education. By knowing the basics of estate planning, you have a better idea of what you need to do. Here are a few basic tips on what you'll need to begin estate planning.

Think Ahead: Before preparing the most crucial documents needed for estate planning, it's important to sit down and decide who you'll put in charge to make medical and financial decisions for you. You'll also want to decide who gets what. Picking out beneficiaries and an executor of your estate are two of the most critical decisions you can make. If you have younger children, it's also important to decide what would happen to them in case of an emergency.

Know which documents you'll need: In general, it's recommended that you have a will, a financial power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, and a living will. All of these documents will designate who will make decisions when you're gone, or if you're alive but unable to make important choices regarding medical care or finances. Your power of attorney will make your financial decisions. Your medical power of attorney will be the person you put in charge of medical decisions, while the living will describes the type of medical decisions you want your proxy to make.

Survey your finances: Make sure you know what you'll owe when you die, including the costs of probate. Subtract that from your assets and make sure you have a general idea of how much money you'll have left over. By keeping tabs on your remaining assets, you'll be more prepared to know what you'll pay in taxes.

Be ready for anything: When planning your estate, you must be prepared in all areas of your life. From medical to financial decisions and everything in between, it can be an uncomfortable subject, especially when you involve your family in the planning. But by working with a financial professional, you make sure your estate is covered from all angles.

In the end, you want your legacy to be protected. By carefully planning your estate, you can rest assured that all of the proper measures have been taken to protect your family's future.

Lawrence D. Sprung, CFP of Mitlin Financial Inc., is a Registered Representative with Securities America, Inc., a Registered Broker/Dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Securities America Advisors, Inc., a SEC Registered Investment Advisory firm. Lawrence D. Sprung, Investment Advisor Representative. Mitlin Financial Inc. and Securities America are unaffiliated. Written by: Securities America, Inc. Distributed by: Lawrence D. Sprung.

He can be reached at (631) 465-2017 or by e-mail at Feel free to forward any questions, or future topics you would like to see discussed to and put in the subject line.