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5 Keys to Estate Planning: What to Know if You’re Just Getting Started

October 20, 2023

(BPT) - By John Clidas, Synovus Trust Company

How would things play out if something happened to you yesterday? With National Estate Planning Awareness Week upon us, it serves as a perfect reminder to ensure your affairs are in order to help you build, manage, protect and transfer wealth in the most tax-efficient way. This is especially important given the mass transfer of wealth that we are currently experiencing; according to some studies, between now and 2045, baby boomers and their parents will pass down $84.4 trillion in assets. Despite this, many Americans still need to catch up when it comes to preparing for their financial posterity. So, where to start?

Planning starts by asking yourself some of the more basic questions. For instance, if you have minor children, do you have a will in place with guardianship provisions outlined? Have you taken inventory of your assets — financial and otherwise? Who do you want to get what?

Estate planning is like airbags. By the time you find out if they work — it’s too late. To ensure control of how your affairs are handled, here are five things to consider:

  1. Don’t think it’s only an issue for the wealthy. Estate planning is for everyone. Each plan is specific to the individual. For some, it’s taking inventory and titling assets and using beneficiary designations consistent with one’s wishes (bank and investment accounts, residences and other real estate, retirement plans, life insurance policies and more). For higher net worth business owners, this can take form in liquidity concerns. Is there enough liquidity to pay estate taxes? Will beneficiaries need to sell assets to pay estate taxes? Estate plans are not one size fits all.
  2. Save DIYs for home projects, not estate planning. It’s important to leverage the right resources and assemble the best team to help develop your plan. As tempting as it is to grab the reins, with something this consequential it’s important to seek professional advice.
  3. Attack procrastination. As much as we all wish one existed, no crystal ball can tell us our future. Start planning now to set yourself and your loved ones up for a successful transition. You need to start somewhere. Why not today?
  4. Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. It’s more important to have a well-executed plan than a perfect plan that was never established. When developing your plan, it’s important to build in flexibility so that it can still achieve your goals under changing laws. For example, in 2017 we saw the amount that each individual can transfer without negative tax consequences. This had dramatic effects on people’s estate plans. Be prepared, not perfect.
  5. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Planning for events that will transpire once you're no longer present can be daunting. By taking action now, you will be empowered to shape the course of your affairs, ensuring that the path you lay out is the road taken.

There are 5 D’s (death, disability, divorce, disagreement, distress) in life that you can’t control. By proactively planning today, you assure yourself and your loved ones that your legacy and wishes will be upheld and honored as you intended.

John Clidas is a Senior Relationship Manager at Synovus Trust Company serving South Florida

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