When creating an estate plan, the first step is to ask yourself, “What do I hope to achieve with my estate plan?” Different families often have different objectives and expectations from their estate plans. These objectives often include ensuring a smooth transfer of wealth with minimal legal complications, safeguarding assets for beneficiaries who may not possess strong financial acumen, minimizing tax liabilities, or supporting charitable causes close to your heart. Your unique circumstances, such as the type and location of your assets, the citizenship of potential heirs, international laws, and the financial capabilities of your beneficiaries, all play a vital role in determining the most appropriate estate planning approach for you.

Let us explore some popular estate planning tools families commonly use:

Last will and testament: Commonly known as a will, it is a fundamental yet crucial component of your estate plan. It allows you to specify how your assets should be distributed after your passing. This document empowers you to allocate your assets according to your wishes, whether it’s to family members, friends, or charitable organizations. A significant advantage of a will is that it supersedes intestate succession laws, which means you have control over who inherits your assets and in what proportions. Additionally, you can modify your will as needed throughout your life, provided you remain mentally competent. However, it’s important to note that wills can be contested, especially if your estate planning focuses solely on drafting the will without ensuring that all relevant asset documentation aligns with your intentions.

Private family trust: A trust is another powerful tool in estate planning, and it can be established during your lifetime. Trusts are versatile and can serve various purposes. Unlike a will, which distributes assets posthumously in a single instance, a trust can manage and allocate assets both during and after your lifetime. Trusts offer several advantages, such as facilitating succession planning, protecting assets from unwarranted claims, preserving assets for minors or individuals who may not handle finances responsibly, and managing wealth for beneficiaries who might not be financially savvy. Trusts come in various forms, including revocable, irrevocable, discretionary, and determinate trusts, and the choice depends on your specific objectives and circumstances.

Gift deed: A gift deed allows you to transfer assets during your lifetime from you (the donor) to the recipient (the donee). This tool is particularly beneficial if you want to ensure that your chosen beneficiaries receive certain assets promptly. Unlike a will, which becomes effective only after death and may even be contested, a gift deed facilitates immediate asset transfers, helping you support your loved ones even during your lifetime.

Power of Attorney (POA): This is an essential component of your estate plan. This legal document authorizes someone you trust to manage and execute your financial affairs if you become incapacitated. By designating a trusted individual as your attorney-in-fact, you ensure that there is a seamless transition in the management of your finances, allowing for uninterrupted financial decision-making. However, it’s crucial to choose a reliable and responsible person for this role, as the POA can be susceptible to misuse if placed in the wrong hands.

Each of these estate planning tools serves a unique purpose and can be chosen based on your specific goals and objectives. While wills and trusts are popular and provide a structured framework for asset distribution, they offer more than just that. For instance, a will can also appoint an executor and a guardian for minor children, decisions that would otherwise be left to the courts in the absence of a will. On the other hand, a trust can help avoid the probate process, which can be time-consuming and expensive. Furthermore, it enables tailored asset distribution, allowing you to specify how and when your beneficiaries receive their inheritances.

It’s important to note that wills and trusts are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they can complement each other in your estate plan. Consulting with an experienced estate planning advisor or attorney is advisable to ensure that your plan aligns with your objectives and that your wishes are executed precisely as you intend. Estate planning is a dynamic process that should be reviewed and adjusted periodically to reflect changes in your life circumstances, tax laws, and financial situation.

In summary, proper estate planning is not merely about distributing your assets; it’s about protecting your legacy, ensuring your loved ones are cared for, and minimizing potential conflicts and tax burdens. By taking a comprehensive and thoughtful approach to estate planning, you can achieve peace of mind, knowing that your wealth will be preserved and transferred according to your wishes, benefiting generations to come.

Sneha Makhija is head of wealth planning, products & solutions, Sanctum Wealth

Unlock a world of Benefits! From insightful newsletters to real-time stock tracking, breaking news and a personalized newsfeed – it’s all here, just a click away! Login Now!

Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint.
Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.


Published: 21 Dec 2023, 10:15 PM IST