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Estate planning and the wealthy

A recent survey from America has looked at estate planning activities of the wealthy, to determine how prepared they are to ensure the security and succession of their family’s wealth.

Private bank U.S. Trust questioned 711 high net worth adults in the U.S. with more than $3 million in investable assets, and found that although the basics, such as a written will, are in place, comprehensive planning is incomplete. Survey respondents cited the top three goals of estate planning as (1) ensuring the needs of a spouse are met; (2) minimising estate taxes; and (3) minimising the administrative burden of settling one’s estate.

Despite awareness of the importance of estate planning, the study found:

  • Nearly three-quarters (72”) of respondents do not have a comprehensive estate plan, including 84% of those under the age of 49, and 65% age 49 or older.
  • Approximately one-half (55%) have never established a trust of any kind, primarily for two reasons: procrastination and the mistaken notion that outlining wishes in a will precludes the need for a trust.
  • Six in ten respondents have named, or intend to name, their spouse or partner as executor of their estate. Only 32% of people consider the financial knowledge and skills of the person they name as their executor. Having sufficient legal and financial knowledge was cited as the top difficulty in serving as an executor by those who already have served, particularly by women.
  • Two-thirds (67%) of respondents say they have organised their personal, financial, medical and legal records and information in one place, but nearly half (46%) have not informed the executor of their estate about how to access the records. Fifty-five percent of respondents say they have organised passwords for accessing digital records or accounts, but 63% have not specified their wishes authorising access to the passwords or to any online assets.

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