Did you know one of the best ways to say "I love you" isn't used by more than two-thirds of Americans? It's something all of us should do, no matter our age or circumstances, yet most of us don't; sometimes it's just a matter of procrastination, or perhaps it's because we don't think we need to do it (at least not right now). But let me tell you, it's never too early (or late) to write the ultimate love letter to your family and friends: start creating your Estate Plan today.
Our failure to plan and provide basic information can and will create chaos, conflict, and a costly legal mess for your loved ones when you become incapacitated or pass away. By simply taking the time to create an Estate Plan, you are showing your loved ones that you care so much for them that you are taking care of everything, even after you are gone. What will be left behind is your planned legacy and cherished memories, not heartbreak and confusion.
Here is the anatomy of the perfect love letter to your heirs:
A Trust and a Trustee
The first step in your legacy journey is to create a trust and appoint a trustee. Think about the most important people in your life and your vision/goal for their futures. Consider your charitable goals. Doing this exercise should help inform the distribution of your assets. If you have minor children, you have a special obligation to establish a trust and name a guardian. Your Estate Planning Attorney can help you detail who gets what, when, and how.
The Proper Treatment of Assets
Depending on your circumstances and the type of assets you have, they will need to be individually treated in your Estate Plan to ensure they are properly allocated and taken care of. Examples include items owned outright, assets held jointly, treasured heirlooms, retirement plans, life insurance, or assets subject to lien. Perhaps your heirs can bid on your heirloom using money allocated to them from the estate, or your assets subject to lien can be sold to pay off outstanding debt. Have an IRA? Click here to learn more about how to name the right beneficiary for it. As always, a professional consultation is recommended to determine the ideal options or beneficiaries to achieve your objectives and minimize tax consequences.
Your Wishes and Wisdom
Your planned legacy can (and should) be more than just financial assets, material possessions, and legal documents. It can include a family love letter (aka an Ethical Will) that can detail your values, wisdom, philosophy, goals, wishes, or similar sentiments. You can pass on your life lessons, family history, and traditions. It can be a chance to appreciate family members or friends. It's really anything you want to pass on along with your financial legacy. What would you like your loved ones to know about you or what you wish for them?
Your Estate Plan is not a static document. It grows and evolves along with you and your life. You should review and update your will and trust regularly to ensure it is always aligned with your values and includes all of your assets. This is especially important as your investment portfolio becomes more complex or when your family situation changes, such as with a birth or a divorce. This is why putting together a trusted team of professionals such as an Estate Planning Attorney, Financial Advisor, and CPA is so crucial; they can help keep your financial goals and your estate planning on track throughout your life.
Everyone should take the time to create this ultimate love letter for their loved ones. Talk to an Estate Planning Attorney today to discuss creating your trust or making updates to your existing one. The legacy you leave behind should be one of peace of mind.
Sundvick Legacy Center provides clients with their unique Total Legacy Care Process and Total Legacy Care Plan, a thorough step-by-step guide to building a comprehensive, dynamic, and understandable plan tailored specifically for YOU. If you're interested in leaving behind a meaningful legacy, contact us today to schedule an appointment.