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Take some of the worry out of estate planning

It can be easier with these simple tips.

Only 44 percent of Americans have a will or estate planning documents in place to address how they want their assets distributed upon their death.[1] Why do we procrastinate on such a vital issue?

There seems to be a litany of reasons: We're focused on the present. We fear that estate planning will be expensive or time-consuming. We don't think we have enough assets to merit it in the first place. Or we're just overwhelmed thinking about our mortality.

No matter the reasons, failing to have an estate plan is almost always a serious mistake. Estate planning provides certainty over where your assets will go after you die. It also allows you to address your loved ones' expectations and lessens their burden so they can mourn your passing without undue focus on financial details and red tape.

Up-to-date plans are good plans

"As we all know, even the best-laid plans go awry," says Michelle Fuller, vice president and employee benefit advisor with BancorpSouth Insurance Services in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. "Circumstances change, such as marital status or dependents. Plans change. Tax laws change. So do income, property values, net worth and so on."

With that in mind, Fuller suggests reviewing your estate with your legal counsel, insurance agent, financial professional and/or accountant on an annual basis — or in the wake of any major change in circumstances.

Address these important considerations

Be sure to cover these key topics in your discussions with your financial professional and legal counsel:

  • Appropriate structure. There are many options when it comes to estate planning. Some involve an irrevocable trust and naming a trustee; others may be based on a mix of life insurance, second-to-die policies and tax-sheltered investments. Your financial professional can help you in determining the right choices for you.
  • Essential documents. Fuller singles out these common oversights in estate planning: neglecting your will, not naming a power of attorney and not addressing an advance healthcare directive. Likewise, don't forget to include provisions for funding tax liability or income replacement at retirement or death.
  • Healthcare costs. Failing to plan for healthcare costs is another common estate-planning mistake. "You must understand that aside from COBRA, Medicare and a supplement or a retiree health insurance plan, there are premiums to pay and out-of-pocket expenses," says Fuller. "Not to mention that health insurance isn't designed to pay for everything, so you could have some non-covered expenses."

Get help from a financial professional.

A financial professional can help you with the estate planning process.

Don't have a financial professional? We can help you find one.


EZLaw Wills & Estate Planning Survey, July 2011

Michelle Fuller and BancorpSouth Insurance Services are not an affiliate of any company of the Principal Financial Group®.

While this communication may be used to promote or market a transaction or an idea that is discussed in the publication, it is intended to provide general information about the subject matter covered, and is provided with the understanding that none of the member companies of The Principal® are rendering legal, accounting, or tax advice. It is not a marketed opinion and may not be used to avoid penalties under the Internal Revenue Code. You should consult with appropriate counsel or other advisors on all matters pertaining to legal, tax, or accounting obligations and requirements.

Insurance products and plan administrative services are provided by Principal Life Insurance Company, a member of the Principal Financial Group® (The Principal®), Des Moines, IA 50392.


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