Undoubtedly, there will be a point where we will exit. We will depart from the workforce, our tax-deferred retirement accounts, and ultimately from life. This five-week series will provide you insight into leaving behind your legacy. Legacy includes our assets, but it also includes our hopes, wishes, and desires for the next generation.
How would you answer the following questions: “When you are gone, whom do you want to get your resources? Have you shared that information with the beneficiary? Do your legal documents allow for that transfer to occur? What messages and instructions have you left behind? Is your current process to transfer assets clear, organized, and up to date?” Rarely can a person respond positively to all the questions. The objective is incremental improvements.
Close your eyes and imagine how you want your heirs and charities to feel upon your demise. That will help you to construct a legacy vision. Most estate planning occurs only after witnessing the royal mess left behind where proper planning failed to materialize. No one knowingly wants to leave behind unnecessary challenges and confusion for the beneficiaries. Writing out your wishes, getting organized, and sharing your thoughts can go a long way in removing headaches for others after your demise.
The expression “putting the cart before the horse” summarizes many estate planning efforts. People have a general idea of whom they want to receive the remainder of their estate and know they need legal documents. Trained estate planning attorneys will help you walk through the options, but they can only do that when you are clear about what you want. Yogi Berra said, “If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else. ” That happens in estate planning all too often. The estate planning documents are constructed, they are legal, but they don't represent your wishes in many cases.
Think about what you learned in grade school when writing a paper. Who, what, when, why, where, and how are all pertinent in the estate planning discussion. Who will receive the assets? What type of investment are they getting? When do you want them to have control of the asset? Why this particular asset to this specific recipient? In what state is the asset held, and where does the beneficiary reside? Which type of transfer document – will or trust – will best suit the needs of your estate plan?
Once you are clear on your objectives, you will have a better chance of matching yourself with the proper legal counsel. Some legal documents are more fundamental than others. Ensure you understand what the documents mean and are clear on the who, what, why, where, and how directives.
You have done the heavy lifting for years. You said “No” to buying things so that you could save for your future. Hopefully, you get to use those savings. If your departure from this planet is premature, let's make sure what you leave behind makes the most significant impact with the smallest ripple in the lives of your heirs.
Joseph A. Clark is a Certified Financial Planner and Managing Partner of The Financial Enhancement Group, and an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Contact Joe at yourlifeafterwork.com or 800-928-4001. Securities offered through World Equity Group, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services can be provided by the Financial Enhancement Group (FEG) or World Equity Group. FEG and World Equity Group are separately owned and operated.