A legacy means something different to each person you ask. It can come in many forms: a family home, a precious jewel, a secret dinner recipe, a story.
Today more than ever people are interested in their family histories. With increased sales for DNA analysis and ancestry reports, people are voyaging through time to meet and understand who their relatives were, where they came from, and the journey to the present.
This means that we get to talk about and think about legacy in new and interesting ways—the ways that we seek to connect with family for generations and beyond.
What does a legacy look like to you?
One of my favorite things to talk about with my clients is the legacy they wish to have for their own lives. It allows us to dive into the people, places, and things that mean the most to them and designing a plan to help get them there.
This process is what estate planning is all about.
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is a term that I am sure you have heard before, sprinkled in financial articles and stored in the back of your mind. The process of cataloging, organizing and preparing your assets to be handled when you are no longer in a position to do so.
This means writing a will, establishing trusts, advanced directives, powers of attorney and letters of instruction. It means selecting beneficiaries and making a plan for your belongings. The foundation of estate planning is to ensure that your wishes are honored and carried out while simultaneously relieving some pressure from family and loved ones to make those decisions without you.
While there are many documents that comprise estate planning, I’m going to discuss the top 3 giving you a great place to start.
Most people delay making a will. Even so, it is one of the most crucial in any estate plan. Your will documents the wishes you have for your probate estate. It takes into account property and other belongings and ensure that they go to the person of your choosing. It’s important that your will be reflective of the decisions you have already made such as beneficiaries on checking or savings accounts for example.
My advice: when you are making your will, be consistent, comprehensive, and caring.
- Power of Attorney
An integral part of any estate plan is establishing a power of attorney over both your financial and medical matters. A power of attorney is someone who can make decisions on your behalf. You bequeath this person the right to carry out (to the best of their ability) your plans for both your health and your finances.
You may select the same person for both roles, but I suggest considering naming these as separate people who work well together. A power of attorney, no matter what capacity, is a difficult role and choosing two people may help the process without overwhelming your loved one.
No estate plan is complete without deciding your beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are people who you designate to receive access and the funds from the account you choose. You need beneficiaries for:
- Checking/saving accounts
- Investment accounts
Establishing beneficiaries helps to ensure that your money and assets are going to the people of your choice. This eliminates any guesswork and reduces stress in the process.
These documents are merely the bones of an estate plan. So how does that translate to you and your legacy?
Estate planning, while on the surface may seem unpleasant, is actually another way of talking about legacy planning. When you structure your assets, taking into account your health care, financial wellbeing, and directive for your belongings, you are setting the tone for the legacy that you wish to leave.
Your estate plan will and should be unique to you—something that encompasses your own wishes, values, and goals. It is important that you have these conversations with your family members: spouse, kids, grandkids, close family friends because the more open you are, the better your plan will be.
Your legacy can be established in so many different ways. Perhaps for you, it is starting a scholarship for art students in your hometown or maybe it is giving the family home to your daughter who wants to raise her family in the same, beautiful home she was raised in. It is personal to you, your family, and the story you want to tell.
Your Financial Advisor Can Help
Your legacy is a tall order, something that can’t be manufactured in one sitting. It takes time, patience, and a lot of thought to design the best plan for you.
Your financial planner will be able to walk you through the steps needed to create a solid estate plan and help you leave the legacy you want for your family.
Are you ready to take another look at your estate plan? Give us a call, and we will be happy to work with you.