A Framework for Estate Planning: Start by Focusing on Yourself

10.02.2021 - Leslie Bohner, Chief Fiduciary Officer and General Counsel, Pennsylvania Region

Creating a gifting and estate planning strategy can seem overwhelming at first. But starting with an organized framework can make the process much easier. Begin by asking yourself this question: Will my plan help me accomplish the goals I have for myself, my family, and my community?

Focus on Yourself

Start by creating a net worth statement that identifies your assets and liabilities. Next, be sure you are tracking your income and expenses in the form of a personal budget. Do you know how much you are spending, how much you are saving, and how much you need?

Finally, make sure you have a contingency plan. Create a list of important contact information, key documents, account details, assets, and passwords. Keep this list in a safe place but be sure to let someone you trust know where to find it in an emergency.

After you gather this information, you will be in a much better position to answer more specific questions, such as:

  • Will I be able to meet my short-term and long-term goals?
  • If my spouse died, would I be able to maintain my lifestyle?
  • Would I have access to liquidity (cash) if I needed it?
  • Who should serve as my executor, trustee or co-trustee?
  • How do life insurance policies and retirement accounts fit into my plan?
  • Are my beneficiary designations up to date?
Focus on Your Family

Once you understand how you will take care of yourself, start working on a plan to make sure your family is well taken care of in the future. It is equally important to make sure family members are prepared to handle the wealth they will inherit.

Ask yourself:

  • What is my family’s legacy… or what do I want it to be?
  • How will I educate my family about this legacy?
  • How do I want to take care of my family now?
  • Am I making gifts to my children and grandchildren for tuition and other items?
  • How much is enough?
  • Before gifting, have I made sure I have enough to meet my goals for myself?
  • How do I want to take care of my family after I am gone?
  • Should I leave assets to my children outright or in trust?
  • Do I have concerns about creditor protection or divorce in my family?
  • Should I treat my children equally, even if they have different financial circumstances?
  • Should I plan differently for family members with special needs?
  • Have I named the right people to serve as executor, trustee, and guardian?
  • How will I communicate my plan to family members?
Focus on Your Community

After you have focused on your goals for yourself and your family, you will have a clearer picture of how much time, talent, and treasure you have left to support your community and other causes you care about.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are my charitable goals?
  • How much can I afford to give?
  • If I were to craft a charitable mission statement today, what would it say?
  • Do I want to support charities during my lifetime, at my death, or both?
  • How will I involve my family in my charitable giving plan?
Start Building Your Plan Today

This framework is only a starting point. Once you have gathered your financial information, determined how you want to help your family, and identified charitable goals, you can begin to develop a comprehensive gifting and estate plan that lasts for generations.


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IRS Circular 230 Notice: Pursuant to relevant U.S. Treasury regulations, we inform you that any tax advice contained in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein. You should seek advice based on your particular circumstances from your tax advisor.


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