What is Estate Planning?

July 17, 2019

Estate planning carries connotations as being only for the financial elite — the rich and famous living in mansions in upscale neighborhoods. However, estate planning is for most everyone. It’s for each person, each family unit that has assets or pension- like benefits that will be managed when elder care is needed and eventually “broken up” or bequeathed to someone or some cause important to that person/family.

Estate planning is a means of preparing for your future needs and is most often a reflection of your values. 

To learn more, keep reading or contact us for a complimentary strategy session. Advisory Group West provides financial services for the Glendale area and beyond. Our personal financial advisors specialize in advisory services that can help you protect assets and benefits, grow investments, create lifetime income strategies and of course preserve your estate.

The Basics of Estate Planning

Thinking about your own death is never pleasant. What can be fun, however, is considering how your planning will reflect your values during your life and then allow those values to resonate with your loved ones long after you are gone.  It’s your way to prepare for your future, the future of your loved ones, and for defining your values and what is most important to you.

What is your personal perspective on these questions? 

  • Who and how will financial decisions be made on your behalf for as long as you need?
  • Who and how will custodial choices be made when unable to express your preference?
  • How should you make the best use of social, medical and government benefits when frail or incapacitated?
  • How can your quality of life be improved by removing as much stress, cost, and complication as possible from all these areas?
  • How can you prepare your business to maintain operations and fluid succession?
  • How can you avoid expensive tax or government benefit complications?
  • Which parts of your hard-earned assets might be lost to unnecessary taxes?
  • Who should continue to receive your gifts and how would you like them to be used when you pass them on to others?
  • Who and how will minor children, grandchildren, or even your pets be taken care of?


Estate planning isn’t just about compiling documents like writing a will, a trust or buying a life insurance policy — though these are certainly practical steps of the estate planning process. Estate planning provides so much more: 

  • Ensures your intentions are truly carried out.
  • Gives you peace of mind of knowing folks know what provisions you’ve made for your personal care whenever needed.
  • You’ll know how loved ones will be financially taken care of when you pass. 
  • Contributes to harmony among beneficiaries.
  • Eliminates or reduces the impact of estate transfer costs, taxes, etc. 
  • Can allow you to support causes or organizations important to you.


Once you’ve clearly defined your values and determined your intentions for your estate during life as well as after you pass away, you can begin gathering existing assets, financial products and legal paperwork to research whether each facet dovetails with your intentions. Though the steps and paperwork needed for effective estate planning may look different for everyone, most will utilize these six things. 

Life Insurance

Various types of life insurance can serve the purpose of providing survivorship income for your spouse and dependents, as well as providing assets for paying off long-term debt such as a mortgage. Your desire for insurance will determine the type and amount of insurance you might buy, if you can qualify. In some cases, you might utilize a combination of types of life insurance. Common types of life insurance include: 

  • Universal/whole life insurance
  • Term life insurance

A Will

A will might seem intimidating, but it’s simply documenting what you want to happen to your assets or possessions you have left behind. When creating your will, you will want to consult a personal financial advisor as well as an attorney. Questions to consider when setting up your will include: 

  • Who will gain custody over your children? 
  • Who will get your major assets? 
  • How should major assets be divided up, and when is age- appropriate?
  • What will happen to your personal possessions, items of value, and heirlooms? 
  • Who will care for your pets? 

You also need to consider who will serve as an executor of your will. If you have a will that is clearly written and thorough, and an effective executor, you can have peace of mind knowing that your intentions will be carried out.

A Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is a document that determines who you want in charge of your finances and legal affairs when you can no longer make those decisions. This document is only valid within your lifetime, and the person you choose will essentially be representing you. 

Legally without a power of attorney, your spouse will serve this position. Even if you do intend to have your spouse represent you, it is still in your best interest to create this document;: in the event that you and your spouse become incapacitated, it prevents a legal mess from ensuing when a durable power of attorney isn’t chosen. You can choose anyone to represent you and change it at any time.

A Living Will

A living will is similar to a durable power of attorney: it dictates what your wishes are if you should be unable to tell doctors yourself. Though a power of attorney can make these decisions for you, it is still best to indicate what your wishes are such as: 

  • How long should you be on life support? 
  • What methods do you wish or do not wish to be used to maintain your life? 

A living will can relieve much of the anguish or confusion your loved ones could experience if they have to make these decisions without the aid of a living will.

Master Document For Survivors

This document is an easy way to help your survivors know what to do to close out financial assets and accounts. It can also provide other valuable information, like passwords, where to find valuable assets, combinations to safes, and other similar information. This type of document can relieve the stress loved ones often experience in addition to the grief your incapacity and after your passing.

A Trust

A trust isn’t required, but it can provide many benefits depending on your situation. Those with more than $100,000 in assets and those with children should consider the possible advantages of a trust. With such a document, you can avoid the costs and process of probate delays and make sure that your children are protected and provided for. Though you will have to pay legal fees to set one up, it can be very advantageous. 

To learn more about the estate planning process as well as what the process might look like for you, contact Advisory Group West! We provide trusted services for Glendale and beyond. Set up a 15-minute complimentary consultation with us!