Seven steps to create an effective estate transfer plan

Last Updated on October 8, 2016 by cassnetwork

We encourage local businesses and organizations to submit information to help people make informed decisions. The following column was submitted by Barry Taylor.

Barry Taylor, CFO State Theatre Preservation Society
Barry Taylor, Integrated Planning Solutions

Estate Planning conjures images of the wealthy. Huge estates with mansions and trust funds? However, estate planning is often misunderstood and overlooked.

While we live, we acquire property. A home, savings and other assets which we enjoy and use while we are here. The question is, what happens to that property when we are finished with it? Where does it go?

Do you want your property to pass to a surviving spouse or children? Maybe you want to leave a donation to a charity or faith based organization. What finally happens to your property is up to you and the choices you make through an estate transfer plan.

The estate transfer plan spells out who will receive your property and under what conditions. There will likely be assets which may not have significant monetary value, but sentimental value to family. For example, a rocking chair which has been in the family for generations.

An estate transfer plan is achieved with legal documents written by an attorney. These documents spell out who you wish to be in charge of estate administration. This person or persons would be tasked with the responsibility of opening your estate with the probate court and distributing your property based on your estate transfer plan.

People often assume their property will automatically transfer to family when no legal documents like a Will or trust exist.

State law governs how your estate will transfer if you failed to create a Will or trust before your death. Family may receive property but it might not happen the way you would like. Do you own property outside your resident state? If you do, estate settlement is further complicated because the laws of that state also come into play.

Why do many fail to create an estate transfer plan or put off planning? Because we assume we have unlimited time. We believe time will always be on our side. Yet people die every day in their twenties, thirties, forties and fifties. Far younger than they planned.

Since we do not enter this world with an expiration date, it is essential we not delay creating an estate transfer plan. Once completed, you can rest easy knowing you have a plan and your family will know your wishes.

However, a well-crafted estate plan goes beyond the question of whom receives your property. Other estate documents are important as well. For example, a Power of Attorney allows you to name a person or persons with power to conduct financial affairs on your behalf if unable do so yourself.

A Health Care Power of Attorney names a health care proxy who makes medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.

If you have not created an estate transfer plan here is what you need to do to get started.

Step one

Understand there are two parts to your plan. First is the legal side. An attorney drafts the necessary legal documents based on your wishes. These documents are used during probate and your estate settlement to ensure your property transfers according to your wishes.

The second part is financial. It is important to ensure you have enough income for you and your spouse’s needs. Exploring ways to transfer assets on a tax favored basis.

Step two

Find a financial professional who can aid with creating an estate transfer plan. A financial professional can help organize your financial information and prepare to meet with an attorney.

A financial professional will examine your current financial outlook and make recommendations on ways of creating income if needed. A financial professional will also determine if there are ways to transfer assets on a tax favored basis.

Step three

Interview several attorneys. Look for an attorney who has experience in estate planning. Work with an attorney you feel comfortable with. Who listens to and understands your wishes. The attorney will not only create the estate documents. The attorney will also review your estate and point out possible challenges. Most people seek the help of an attorney when things go wrong. A good estate planning attorney can help ensure your estate transfer goes smoothly.

Step Four

Complete the process. Individuals often start an estate transfer plan and fail to see it through to completion. Your financial professional can help keep you on track so you complete your estate transfer plan in a timely manner.

Step five

If your attorney recommends you set up a living trust, be sure you understand what actions you need to take to title property into the trust. Your attorney may, for a fee or as part of their planning package help you properly title assets into the trust. This is a commonly overlooked step with living trusts.

Step six

Be sure to contact your attorney if you have a significant change in your situation. Divorce, birth of a child or the death of a spouse. These life changes may call for updates to your existing plan or added documents. It is important to meet with your financial professional each year. He or she should ask about important life changes.

Step seven

Review your estate plan every three to five years. This ensures your estate plan is up-to-date and in compliance with any changes in law.

Above all the most important step is taking action. Do not put off what you know you need to do. Completing an estate transfer plan offers comfort knowing your family will be taken care of and your property will transfer according to your wishes not the states.

About the Author

Barry Taylor is the owner of Integrated Planning Solutions – with over nineteen years’ experience in the financial services industry. Barry also serves as CFO of the State Theatre Preservation Society and Treasurer on the Board of Directors. Barry can be contacted a 574-516-6931 or by email at


Integrated Planning Solutions nor its employees offer tax or legal advice. Before making a decision with tax or legal implications, contact your tax or legal adviser.

The information presented is for information purposes only. It is not intended to be tax or legal advice.