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5 Elements of a Well-Crafted Estate Plan

Financial and estate planning for graduates

A guide to the elements of an estate plan to protect your family

Livonia, Mich., July 2, 2017 – Birth, death, marriage or divorce … these life events are usually the catalysts for creating or updating an estate plan. But around this time of the year, there is another reason for Americans to redo or create estate plans: A child’s graduation from high school or college. When children are young, one of the functions of an estate plan is to name a guardian for minor children. After children are old enough to live alone, estate plans should be rewritten to focus on whether and how to distribute assets to grown children.

Only about four in 10 Americans have estate planning documents, according to a survey of 1,003 adults conducted for

“It’s a great time of year for parents to speak with their recent graduates about the financial responsibilities they face now that they are adults,” said CFP Board Ambassador to Metro-Detroit Robert Schmansky, CFP®. “While it can seem strange to think a young adult needs estate planning, parents are no longer legally responsible for decisions over an adult child, and so it’s important to have the right documents in place.”

There is more to an estate plan than a will. Many Americans sit down with an attorney, CPA or CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional to discuss their goals, and how an estate plan can help ensure they are met.

In the latest contribution to, CFP Board offers a list of the elements of an estate plan:

  • Will: Ensures assets are passed to designated beneficiaries, in accordance with your wishes. In the drafting process, you name an executor, the person or institution that oversees the distribution of your assets. If you have minor children, you need to name a guardian for them.

  • Letter of Instruction: This may appoint someone who will ensure the proper disposition of your remains. This sounds creepy, but it’s important if you choose a method of internment contrary to your family’s tradition.

  • Power of Attorney: Appoints someone to act as your agent if you are incapacitated. That person can act for you in a variety of circumstances, like withdrawing money from a bank, responding to a tax inquiry or making a trade.

  • Health Care Proxy: Appoints someone to make health care decisions on your behalf if you lose the ability to do so.

  • Trusts: Revocable (changeable) or irrevocable (not-changeable) trusts may be useful, depending on your family and tax situations. In 2017, the first $5,490,000 of an estate (twice that for married couples), is exempt from federal estate taxes. If an estate is above the threshold you may want to consider a trust.

One of the best graduation gifts Americans can offer their children is a well-planned estate, prepared with the help of a CFP® professional. Instead of untangling a mess when you’re gone, your heirs can follow concrete steps you’ve laid out for them, while they have the time and space to mourn.

ABOUT CFP BOARD The mission of Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. is to benefit the public by granting the CFP® certification and upholding it as the recognized standard of excellence for competent and ethical personal financial planning. The Board of Directors, in furthering CFP Board’s mission, acts on behalf of the public, CFP® professionals and other stakeholders. CFP Board owns the certification marks CFP®, Certified Financial Planner™, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements. CFP Board currently authorizes more than 76,000 individuals to use these marks in the U.S.

CONTACT: Jessica Lewis, Communications Specialist P: 202-379-2256 Twitter: @cfpboardmedia


Robert Schmansky is the founder of Clear Financial Advisors of Metro-Detroit. Rob has over a decade of experience helping individuals and families meet their financial goals and overcome money concerns. He is frequently quoted in the media on issues regarding personal financial planning, and has been a contributing writer for U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, Investopedia, and Yahoo!Finance, and an investment expert for FiLife, a former Dow Jones/IAC joint Internet venture. He has been an adjunct instructor of economics and the required courses for candidates to sit for the CFP® exam. Rob was named a Top 100 Most Influential Advisor by Investopedia, 40 Under 40 financial planning professional by InvestmentNews, and he is the 2013 PlanPlus Global Financial Planning Awards North American finalist.

CONTACT: Robert Schmansky, CFP® P: 248-677-1762 E: W: Twitter: @moneyclarity

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