4 Elements Of A Sound Estate Plan

Estate planning is an important part of preserving your legacy. Whether you're looking to help loved ones with finances or contribute to causes you care about, you should assemble an estate plan that hits all the marks. Look at these four elements of the plan to ensure you'll achieve your goals.


Every estate plan should appoint an executor. Ideally, this person is someone who wasn't involved in the drafting of the documents. Likewise, they shouldn't have a financial interest in any of the outcomes. If you wish to have an attorney serve as the executor, make sure they meet the above qualifications.

Successorship is an oft-overlooked aspect of administration. You should name at least one successor to the executor in case the original can't do the job. This can happen for a host of reasons, including illness, death, emerging conflicts of interests, or simple unavailability. Your estate should have a backup executor so name a successor.


Many people make the mistake of not properly funding an estate. Your estate's executor will need to settle your outstanding debts and taxes.

Estate planning services providers often encourage their clients to use accounts and assets to solve this problem. You want to have a stable and growing source of money to handle the debt settlement process. For example, you might purchase a summer house and include its sale in the estate. The executor can then use the proceeds to retire your debts and taxes.

Taking the Sting Out of Benefits

You may also want to include some money to help beneficiaries handle inheritances. If someone has to pay taxes on a house, for example, you should include some money to defray the expense.

Another solution is to use capital gains to help beneficiaries. The basis cost for unrealized long-term capital gains makes this approach a very appealing way to transfer value. Some people who are worried about their estates passing a certain threshold prefer this approach to take some of the sting out of it. Bear in mind, though, you'll want to make associated investments as soon as possible to ensure they reach the long-term capital gains threshold by the time of the transfer.

Evidence of Competency

There may be questions about a person's competency at the time of the writing of an estate's documents. It's best to get your will down early to reduce these kinds of claims. Likewise, try to avoid major changes unless they're justified by shifting circumstances.