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The Importance of Pre-Death Estate Planning

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By: Jen Danko 

Planning for the future is a responsibility we all share. One crucial piece of crafting a solid life plan that often gets overlooked is estate planning.  

Preparing for the inevitable is not a fun or easy topic to discuss. It can be emotional, overwhelming and lead to disagreements. But taking proactive steps to create an estate plan ensures your wishes are respected, your loved ones are provided for, and that potential complications are minimized.  

The goal of planning for the future now with a well-crafted estate plan is to ensure that your legacy endures, and your loved ones are cared for according to your wishes. 

Let’s discuss the need for a clear estate plan, and gather some clarity around asset titling, and monitoring beneficiary designations. 


Avoiding Probate: Distributing Assets and Asset Titling  

One of the primary reasons for creating an estate plan is to leave a clear trail for your loved ones regarding the distribution of your assets. 

An estate plan provides detailed instructions on how you want your estate to be divided, minimizing potential conflicts among family members, and ensuring that your final wishes are honored. By clearly outlining your intentions, you can alleviate stress and confusion during an already difficult time.

high net worth couple enjoying retirement

Probate is the legal process by which the court system plays a role in determining how a deceased person’s assets are to be distributed to their beneficiaries.  

  • By holding assets jointly with rights of survivorship or by adding beneficiary designations to one’s assets, you can ensure that your assets pass directly to your intended beneficiaries without the need for probate.  
  • “Transfer on death” beneficiaries can be named on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, and even bank accounts.  
  • For individuals who choose to work with an attorney to draft estate plan documents, this often includes formulating a Will and Trust. However, simply creating these documents will not keep your assets out of probate.  

To avoid probate, the assets also need to be properly titled into the name of your living trust. So be sure not to forget this very important second step in the estate planning process. This streamlined approach not only saves time and money but also provides a greater level of privacy for your estate. 


Monitoring Your Beneficiary Designations  

While creating an estate plan is crucial, its equally important to regularly review and update your beneficiary designations.  

Failing to do so can lead to stale or outdated designations, causing unintended consequences. Life events such as marriage, divorce, births, and deaths may necessitate changes in your beneficiary designations. Neglecting to update this information could result in your assets being distributed in a way that no longer aligns with your wishes.  


Securing Your Legacy 

Pre-death estate planning is a vital step in providing for your loved ones. By creating a clear estate plan, you can navigate the complexities of estate distribution and reduce the potential for disputes.  

Taking these proactive measures not only protects your assets but also offers peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be carried out.  


Curious About Estate Planning and Wondering Where to Begin? 

If you are interested in an estate plan review, the experts at Maner Costerisan can provide guidance tailored to your unique circumstances and recommendations for how to best achieve your wealth transfer goals. 

Reach out to Jen Danko, CPA, Principal, at for more information on how to start the estate planning process. 

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