When you stop to consider all of the assets you have accumulated over the years, the schedule can be quite impressive. The problem comes when that schedule exists only in your head or you’re not really sure exactly what you own.
It’s no surprise that high earning attorneys accumulate assets ranging from investment accounts, retirement accounts, insurance policies and real estate throughout their careers. You’re probably among those ranks. It should also come as no surprise that many busy partners, like you, have not taken the time to prepare a net worth statement, a simple piece of paper that outlines all assets and liabilities for your family.
If you don’t have a net worth statement or yours is out-of-date, then consider that you may be missing out on tax and estate planning opportunities. For example, many people do not factor insurance policies into future estate tax for their heirs. If the beneficiary of those policies is your spouse or your estate, then the death benefit may bring your total assets above the estate tax limit. This is something you could potentially avoid, but only if you understand all of the details. That’s the true value of a net worth statement.
To help you get started, here is an example of a net worth statement that we use with our clients.
A net worth statement accomplishes the following:
- Accounts for all assets and liabilities: Too often, our clients have said, “I think I have this old 401k account or investment account but can’t remember where it is?” If that sounds familiar, then it’s time to create your net worth statement. If you don’t know where your accounts are, then your heirs may never find these assets if something happens to you. Once you know what you own and where it is, then consider consolidating your accounts.
- Confirms registration of assets. Holding assets in an individual account versus a joint account versus a trust account can have serious consequences if you are ever sued or upon your passing. Make sure you know the registration of all accounts, including any real estate.
- Lists all insurance policies. Evaluate how the death benefits of your life insurance policies impacts your estate asset level. It may be time to start looking at an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) to remove the death benefit from the estate.
- Outlines philanthropic efforts: Outlining philanthropic goals will illustrate how those intentions impact your estate.
You have worked your entire life to accumulate assets and support your family. Take time to get everything down on paper and review planning opportunities. If nothing else, this single piece of paper will give your family peace of mind if something were to happen to you.