Estate Planning

  • Have you determined who should get what you own when you die? 

  • Have you determined who should be in charge when you can’t make your own decisions? 

  • Do you have minor children? If so, have you determined who should care for them when you can’t? 

  • Have you legally documented these decisions? 

  • Have you updated your estate plan and asset titles in the last 2 years? 

  • Do your beneficiaries and the people you’ve nominated to be in charge know what to do if something happens to you?

Things to consider

Estate planning is important for everyone, not just the wealthy. It’s about protecting and providing for you and your family, not just about money or taxes. A plan that works allows you to achieve the definition of estate planning, which is maintaining control during your lifetime, planning for your disability, then giving what you have to whom you want, when you want and the way you want.

What you need to know

Failure to plan, or having an inadequate plan, may result in:

  1. Giving control to a court as to how your assets are divided
  2. Your children losing their inheritance to your spouse’s new spouse
  3. Your beneficiary losing their inheritance to their creditors
  4. Your beneficiary losing half their inheritance to a spouse as a result of divorce
  5. Someone you don’t know and don’t trust making financial and medical decisions for you when you can’t
  6. A judge deciding who takes care of your minor children

An out-of-date plan can lead to the same (or worse) failures as not planning at all. No matter what your life stage, the time to create an estate plan is now.

What it means

There are four phases of estate planning: Design, Implementation, Maintenance and Settlement.

  • The Design phase involves gathering information about your assets and the people you want involved in your plan, setting goals for what you would like your plan to accomplish and making decisions about how your plan should function.
  • The Implementation phase involves legally documenting the decisions you made in the Design phase to enforce the goals you set and changing the title of your assets to coordinate with your plan.
  • The Maintenance phase involves regular review of your goals, assets, personal situation and the law to determine whether your plan will still function as you expected.
  • The Settlement phase involves putting the plan you have made into effect after you become disabled or pass away.

Establish what phase of estate planning you're in, then work with your advisor to determine next steps.

Open up a dialogue with your advisor regarding your estate plan. If you do not have an estate plan, complete our Personal Affairs Organizer.

Contact an Advisor >>

The above article is not legal advice and employees of Financial Engines are not estate attorneys or estate planners. Readers should consult with an estate-planning attorney prior to making any legally binding decisions.

1. American Bar Association — Estate Planning FAQs — October 2014

2. The New York Times — In Estate Planning, Family Isn’t Always First, May 2014 (study from University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study — Survey of 26,000 People Over the Age of 50 — 2012)

3. U.S. News Money - What Type of Estate and Tax Planning Do I Need to Do? February 2012 (Harris Interactive Phone Survey for Rocket Lawyer — 2011)

Get More Information
  • Free Financial Plan
  • Retirement Report
  • Compare Services

Does your employer already offer our services?
Please call (888) 443-8577

We value your privacy. View our Privacy Policy.

Important Information

*This is a partial listing of Financial Engines’ customers as of December 31, 2017. These companies have consented to disclosure of their relationships with Financial Engines. This does not constitute an endorsement or approval of the advisory service provided. Third-party marks appearing on this site are the property of their respective owners.

*Investment News, RIA Data Center, 2018

*Methodology: InvestmentNews qualified 2,172 firms headquartered in the United States based on data reported on Form ADV to the Securities and Exchange Commission as of May 1, 2018. To qualify, firms must have met the following criteria: (1) latest ADV filing date is either on or after January 1, 2017, (2) total AUM is at least $100M, (3) does not have employees who are registered representatives of a broker-dealer, (4) provided investment advisory services to clients during its most recently completed fiscal year, (5) no more than 50% of amount of regulatory assets under management is attributable to pooled investment vehicles (other than investment companies), (6) no more than 25% of amount of regulatory assets under management is attributable to pension and profit-sharing plans (but not the plan participants), (7) no more than 25% of amount of regulatory assets under management is attributable to corporations or other businesses, (8) does not receive commissions, (9) provides financial planning services, (10) is not actively engaged in business as a broker-dealer (registered or unregistered), (11) is not actively engaged in business as a registered representative of a broker-dealer, (12) has neither a related person who is a broker-dealer/municipal securities dealer/government securities broker or dealer (registered or unregistered) not one who is an insurance company or agency.

All information provided through the Education Center is for education purposes only and does not constitute investment, legal, or tax advice, an offer to buy or sell any security or insurance product or an endorsement of any third party or such third party's views. Whenever there are hyperlinks to third-party content, this information is intended to provide additional perspective and should not be construed as an endorsement of any services, products, guidance, individuals, or points of view outside Financial Engines. All examples are hypothetical and for illustrative purposes only. Please contact one of our investment advisors for more complete information based on your personal circumstances and to obtain personalized individual investment advice.

Videos presented on this website are for educational purposes only and do not constitute investment advice or an offer to buy or sell any security or insurance product.

©2018 Financial Engines, LLC. All rights reserved. Financial Engines® is a registered trademark of Financial Engines, LLC. All advisory services are provided by Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. Financial Engines does not guarantee results and past performance is no guarantee of future results.

See for patent information.