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Can You Control Your Estate from the Grave?



The short answer is, “Yes!” We often spend time planning for our financial future, making sure we have adequate funds to put our children through college and to support us in retirement. We may even plan to provide for our children, other family members or charities once we are gone. Most of us don’t want to think about serious illness and death, let alone plan for our finances and estate after death. However, it is very important to include estate planning in our financial planning.

The Importance of Having a Will

Estate planning does not have to be complicated and begins with making sure you have the proper estate planning documents in place. Let’s consider what we can do to protect our assets and make sure they end up in the hands of the proper beneficiaries. The most basic estate planning document is a will. If you don’t have one, make this a priority for 2020! Having a will in place can alleviate much stress and anxiety for your family as well as provide for your wishes upon your death. What happens if you die intestate (without a will) in the state of Arizona? The consequences can be damaging to you and your family. State law will decide who gets your assets and a judge may determine who will raise your children.

Most of your assets can avoid probate if you have them titled correctly. What is probate, you ask? It is the state court process of proving that a will is valid, identifying the deceased’s assets, and verifying the correct beneficiaries for the assets. It can tie up the assets for months or longer than a year, and probate court costs, on average, around 5% of your estate value.

The two main property titles used are Joint Tenancy WROS (with rights of survivorship) and Community Property WROS. Joint Tenancy WROS allows the property to pass to the other owner(s) without going through probate. Only married couples can title property as Community Property WROS, and this is a great option for married couples in Arizona. This titling allows the property to pass to the surviving spouse and avoid probate as well as receive estate tax advantages.

If you are a sole owner, you can deed your property to beneficiaries. This can be accomplished through a Transfer-On-Death Deed or Beneficiary Deed. You can also name a Transfer-On-Death Beneficiary for your vehicles if your state allows this titling. Arizona allows TOD Beneficiaries for sole vehicle owners. Your vehicles will avoid probate with this titling. Bank accounts can avoid probate as well by designating a Payable-On-Death (POD) Beneficiary. Your bank should have the appropriate forms for you to fill out and designate a POD Account.

Make sure all your retirement accounts and life insurance policies have the correct beneficiaries listed. Review these annually and make changes immediately when you have big life changes such as marriage, children, divorce, etc. These assets will also avoid probate and the funds should be available relatively quickly to the beneficiaries. These accounts do not need to be listed in your will because the beneficiaries listed have legal precedence.

Finally, you will want to put your Health Care Directives and Powers of Attorney in place. At a minimum, you should have a Living Will, a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney and a Durable Financial Power of Attorney. The Living Will is a document that details what health care services you want or don’t want if you become incapacitated. It makes your wishes known if you are no longer able to speak for yourself. The Durable Health Care Power of Attorney designates a person of your choice the authority to make health care choices for you, and to make sure the health care providers are following your health care directives. The Durable Financial Power of Attorney designates a person of your choice to make financial choices for you if you become incapacitated.

The suggestions provided here are the basics of your estate planning and the items you should accomplish or complete at minimum in 2020. There are many additional complicated and intricate ways to control your estate from the grave, including trusts. That is a conversation we can have another day. Wishing you a safe, happy and well-planned year in 2020!

Sincerely,

Emy Tice

Emy Tice is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) professional for WT Wealth Management. Tice is also a Senior Lecturer of Finance at Northern Arizona University (NAU). Tice’s career in finance and passion for education provide her the background and desire to educate WTWM clients and help them plan for their financial future.



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There are no warranties implied.
Any opinions expressed on this website are the opinions of WT Wealth Management and its associates only. Material listed on this website is neither an offer to buy or sell securities nor should it be interpreted as personal financial advice. You should always seek out the advice of a qualified investment professional before deciding to invest. Investing in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETF’s carry certain specific risks and part or all of your account value can be lost.

At WT Wealth Management we strongly suggest having a personal financial plan in place before making any investment decisions including understanding your personal risk tolerance and having clearly outlined investment objectives.

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WT Wealth Management is an SEC registered investment adviser, with in excess of $100 million in assets under management (AUM) with offices in Flagstaff, Scottsdale, Sedona and Tucson, AZ along with Jackson Hole, WY and Las Vegas, NV. WT Wealth Management is a manager of Separately Managed Accounts (SMAs). With SMAs, performance can vary widely from investor to investor as each portfolio is individually constructed and managed. Asset allocation weightings are determined based on a wide array of economic and market conditions the day the funds are invested. In an SMA, each investor may own individual Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), individual equities or mutual funds. As the manager we have the freedom and flexibility to tailor the portfolio to address an individual investor's personal risk tolerance and investment objectives – thus making the account “separate” and distinct from all others we manage. An investment with WT Wealth Management is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or any other government agency. Any opinions expressed are the opinions of WT Wealth Management and its associates only. Information offered is neither an offer to buy or sell securities nor should it be interpreted as personal financial advice. Always seek out the advice of a qualified investment professional before deciding to invest. Investing in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs carries certain specific risks and part or all of an account's value can be lost. In addition to the normal risks associated with investing, narrowly focused investments, investments in smaller companies, sector and/or thematic ETFs and investments in single countries typically exhibit higher volatility. International, Emerging Market and Frontier Market ETFs, mutual funds and individual securities may involve risk of capital loss from unfavorable fluctuations in currency values, from differences in generally accepted accounting principles or from economic or political instability that other nations experience. Individual bonds, bond mutual funds and bond ETFs will typically decrease in value as interest rates rise. A portion of a municipal bond fund's income may be subject to federal or state income taxes or the alternative minimum tax. Capital gains (short and long-term), if any, are subject to capital gains tax. Diversification and asset allocation may not protect against market risk or investment losses. At WT Wealth Management, we strongly suggest having a personal financial plan in place before making any investment decisions including understanding personal risk tolerance, having clearly outlined investment objectives and a clearly defined investment time horizon. WT Wealth Management may only transact business in those states in which it is registered, or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration requirements. Individualized responses to persons that involve either the effecting of transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation, will not be made without registration or exemption. WT Wealth Management's website is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to its advisory services, together with access to additional investment-related information, publications, and links. Accordingly, the publication of WT Wealth Management's website should not be construed by any consumer and/or prospective client as WT Wealth Management's solicitation to effect, or attempt to effect transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation, over the internet. Any subsequent, direct communication by WT Wealth Management with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where the prospective client resides. A copy of WT Wealth Management's current written disclosure statement discussing WT Wealth Management's registrations, business operations, services, and fees is available at the SEC's investment adviser public information website (www. adviserinfo.sec.gov) or from WT Wealth Management directly. WT Wealth Management does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to WT Wealth Management's web site or incorporated therein, and takes no responsibility therefor. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes and all users thereof should be guided accordingly.

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