Estate Planning

When it comes to estate planning, there are two kinds of people: those who have done it and those who wish they had. “Estate planning is something everyone needs to do," says Ray Stranghoener, President of The Commerce Trust Company.

There are four issues to consider:

1. Family

Making sure the surviving spouse and dependents are provided for is a concern of most married couples. In blended families, the issues can grow more complex, given the needs of spouses, ex-spouses, children and stepchildren.

Most common family issues can be addressed through the creation of a trust. A trust is typically administered by a trust company, with the trustee charged with making decisions about allocations.

2. Investments

"Whether married or single, most people underestimate their net worth," says Stranghoener. "People may overlook life insurance policies, retirement benefits and other 'hidden' assets as sources of future income.

3. Health Issues

There are three documents you can prepare now to help ensure your wishes are carried out: a living will, healthcare power of attorney and durable power of attorney.

Also, consider creating a family medical history. Knowing what illnesses run in your family will help you make better decisions on whether to take out more comprehensive medical or long-term care insurance policies.

4. Taxes

There are many things a person can do to minimize his or her heirs' tax burden," says Stranghoener. "Such as placing the money in a trust or beginning a gift-giving program."

The five documents every adult should have:

  • A will—to dictate what happens to your assets when you die.
  • A revocable trust—to help prevent your estate from going through a process that can result in the unnecessary payment of large fees.
  • A durable power of attorney—to give the person of your choice the right to continue business on your behalf.
  • A living will—to dictate your wishes in the event of a terminal injury or illness.
  • A healthcare power of attorney—to give a chosen person the right to act on your behalf and


  • Consult a tax advisor for advice.
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