How Will You be Remembered?
Did you know that memory and memorial share the same root word? For Memorial Day, which honors fallen veterans, and all other days, it may be a good time to think about how you are securing your own memory through adequate legacy planning that will pass your hard-won gains safely on to your family.
Research shows that people who are financially and emotionally confident plan ahead and put safety nets in place—life insurance, retirement savings—to offset adversity. Legacy planning combines both elements: planning and setting up protections to ensure the security of your loved ones in the event of your death. Here are some of the key elements to consider.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s an important question: Do you have a will? We ask because roughly 50 percent of Americans don’t.1 Without a will, your money and property may be unavailable to your heirs for months or, worse, may not be distributed as you intend. Plus, a carefully crafted will can help you prevent avoidable, and costly, state and inheritance taxes from eating away at your bequeathment.
The process is relatively straightforward. Decide who should receive your assets when you pass away. Pick someone to serve as an executor for your estate. And make a list of all your assets, including:
- Money in bank accounts
- Other financial assets, like life insurance and annuities
- Your home
- Your retirement plans and possessions
After you create a will or other estate planning documents, remember that the process shouldn’t end there. Michele Fine, President of Cornerstone Wealth Advisory has some advice for people in the middle of estate planning:
"The biggest mistake and missed opportunity many people experience when it comes to estate planning, regardless of the level of wealth, is that they often think their documents are ‘one and done,’ and don't take the time to revisit and review every couple of years to ensure they’re aligned with their current goals, concerns, and objectives. How have their assets changed, grown, or increased, and are those reflected in their existing documents? Have they titled everything properly that's in line with the blue print of their documents? Are there any important clauses missing or that should be added or removed from their documents that would leave their beneficiaries vulnerable?"
Give yourself breathing room. We all know the airplane emergency rule: strap on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. The same holds true for estate planning. Before you consider leaving assets to others, make sure you secure your own future. Take our Long Term Vision Test to help you discover your retirement goals and optimize your retirement income plan. That way, your family won’t end up taking care of you, and you will have more to pass on to them.
Make your wishes known—in writing If you became incapacitated and unable to manage healthcare and financial decisions, would your family know what you want? One of the greatest burdens you can lift from your loved ones is uncertainty. Create a health care directive (also known as a living will) that spells out your wishes about medical issues such as life support and names a trusted person to make those decisions on your behalf. Similarly, a durable power of attorney lets you name a person or organization to make financial decisions.
Have that conversation. Be open and honest about your estate plan with your heirs (at least those old enough to understand). Give them information on any wills, accounts or trusts that name them as beneficiaries. Make sure they know the names of your lawyer and your financial representative, and how to access your financial holdings.
There are no do-overs in legacy planning after you’re gone. Consulting with a lawyer and a financial representative is the best way to ensure you’ve covered all your bases. Because, as Michele puts it, “the documents are only as good as how they are being used. It's like having a great set of golf clubs – they will be far more valuable to you if you know how and when to use them.” Putting a comprehensive legacy plan in place will help ensure your loved ones will be secure in the years that follow—and what better memorial can you create than that?
1 AALU.org from Guardian’s email Jan. 26, 2017 Victor Ngai, “What Happens if You Die Without a Will: A Cautionary Tale,” WRMarketplace, Jan. 26, 2017
Brought to you by The Guardian Network © 2017. The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America®, New York, NY
Michele Fine is a Registered Representative and Financial Advisor of Park Avenue Securities, . Cornerstone Wealth Advisory LLC is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Guardian. Guardian’s Living Confidently survey, 2017