3 Questions to Ask to Identify Your Legacy Planning Objectives
Estate planning is an important process for anyone who wants to pass along assets to loved ones, friends or even charity after death. Many people assume that a will is sufficient in protecting their wishes. While a will is a helpful document, it may not be able to achieve all your objectives.
You’ve spent nearly your entire adult life building your legacy. You may have raised a family, built a career or even launched a business. Along the way, you’ve probably accumulated property and assets. While it may not be pleasant to think about your own death, at some point you’ll likely need to decide what will happen to your assets and legacy after you pass away.
Before you can establish a plan, you first have to determine which objectives are most important to you. That may not be as easy as it sounds. Below are a few questions to ask yourself as you begin the estate planning process. They’ll help you clarify your goals and values and determine your top objectives.
What happens if you become incapacitated?
Your estate plan isn’t just for events that may happen after you die. You can also use your estate plan to manage your health care and finances during your final weeks, months or years. Given the rise of cognitive issues such as Alzheimer’s, many retirees are faced with the sad prospect of incapacitation, which is the inability to make or communicate one’s own decisions.
If you become incapacitated and don’t have a plan, your family may be forced to make decisions on your behalf. Unfortunately, they may not make decisions with your finances or health care that you would’ve made for yourself.
Again, you can use various estate planning tools to state your wishes and manage your estate. Trusts and power-of-attorney documents can be used to designate a specific person as the manager of your assets. You can also use a health care power of attorney and a living will to protect your medical wishes.
Does anyone rely on you for support, financial or otherwise?
This is an important question to consider, because the answer directly impacts the well-being and stability of your loved ones. If you have people who depend on you, it may be wise to consider how your death would impact their life.
For example, if you have dependent minor children, you may need life insurance to make sure they continue to live a comfortable and stable lifestyle. You may also want to establish a trust to manage their assets until they’re old enough to do so. Similarly, your spouse may need access to your assets and insurance proceeds after your death so they can maintain their standard of living.
Even if you don’t have financial dependents, you may provide support that would be difficult to replace. For example, perhaps you provide care for your elderly parents. Or maybe you baby-sit your grandchildren while their parents work. If you died, how would your loved ones replace your help? You may want to leave them financial assets to help ease the burden.
Does your estate face any financial threats?
Often, heirs and beneficiaries are surprised to find that their inheritance comes with a sizable amount of fees and taxes. In some cases, families are forced to sell treasured assets or property to generate liquidity to pay the costs associated with settling an estate.
For example, there are costs generated by probate, which is the legal process for finalizing one’s estate. It usually includes tasks such as generating final tax returns, paying outstanding debts, liquidating assets and notifying heirs. It can last for months and can produce a substantial amount of administrative and legal fees. Fortunately, you can use tools like insurance, annuities, trusts and qualified plans to minimize the amount of your estate that passes through probate.
There’s also potential debt related to your end-of-life care. You may require prolonged hospitalizations, costly and complex treatments or even long-term care. Any outstanding debt or bills related to the care may have to be paid out of your estate, reducing the amount left for loved ones. You can use long-term care insurance, supplemental health care insurance and health savings accounts to cover out-of-pocket costs.
Ready to create your estate plan? Let’s talk about it. We can help you analyze your needs and develop a strategy. Let’s connect soon and start the conversation.
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16360 – 2017/1/18
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