Determine how you want to be remembered. When the final bell tolls, as it will for each of us, have the confidence that your house is in order.

One of the most difficult calls that we receive at our office is when a client is looking for help to settle the details of a deceased relative’s estate. Many times, paperwork is simply dropped on them, possibly with a letter containing some basic details, but with no real step-by­step process for handling the affairs of the estate. The process can be overwhelming and people can be frozen and paralyzed by the magnitude of details and tasks that need to be done.

Handling these situations can be a big part of what we do at Valley Oak Wealth Management. We have the expertise to understand the paperwork and, if we were involved in the original estate planning process, we will have the details to help manage the settlement of the estate. Even then, there can be certain forms that we will look at and then make a call to ask, “What are you asking for; what do you really want?”

It is an incredible process and we serve as partners with our clients to help them get through what can understandably be a very difficult and emotional time in their lives.

When we work with our clients to help them develop an estate plan, we do encourage consolidation. If there are multiple stock certificates held with multiple transfer agents, we will work to get this down to a single transfer agent. If there are multiple bank accounts at different banks and other accounts at different financial institutions, we will work to consolidate these to a more manageable number. We want to remove as much of the complexity as possible, while still keeping diversification in the portfolio.

An estate plan is essentially putting together and documenting a collective set of details that will serve to manage a person’s asset base in the event of their incapacitation or death, including the distribution of assets to heirs and the settlement of estate taxes. To have confidence with your estate plan, we recommend your plan includes the following primary components shown:

  • Preparing a Will
  • Preparing a Health Care Directive
  • Setting up Trust accounts in the name of beneficiaries
  • Establishing, if needed, a guardian for living dependents
  • Naming an executor of the estate to oversee the terms of the Will
  • Setting up funeral arrangements, burial plans and final requests
  • Establishing annual gifting to reduce the taxable estate
  • Creating and updating beneficiaries on plans such as life insurance, IRAs and 401 (k)s
  • Setting up a durable power of attorney (POA) to direct other assets and investments

Having your documents and final wishes in order is the ultimate gift of generosity. Many older people can suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and, if they have waited too long to put together an estate plan, it may not reflect their wishes. Having an estate plan in place at a young age (60), is a wise and kind act for all of those who hold you dear in their hearts.