4 Estate Planning Documents You Can't Live (Your Best Life) Without
Often, people view estate planning through a narrow lens, thinking it’s only about what happens to their property and assets after they’re gone. While the tax-efficient transfer of your assets to the people and organizations you designate is an important component, estate planning encompasses so much more. First and foremost, it’s about protecting your lifestyle and the people you care about during your lifetime. It answers critical questions, including: Who will have the legal authority to act on your behalf if you’re unable to do so, due to an accident or illness? Who will manage your assets and make important healthcare and end-of-life decisions on your behalf? And how will your legacy be carried out now and after you’re gone?
Ask yourself: If a crisis occurred today, would your loved ones have the knowledge and legal authority to follow through and act on your behalf? Without the right legal documents in place, it can be hard—if not impossible—for those you appoint to carry out their obligations and responsibilities. To protect yourself and loved ones, plan to meet with an estate planning attorney who can help you draw up important legal documents, including:
- Will: A will instructs how your property will be distributed after your death. It allows you to name a personal representative (“executor”) charged with overseeing the distribution of your property and shepherding it through probate (the court process required to validate your will and transfer your assets). Keep in mind, certain assets sit outside of your will, such as life insurance policies or qualified retirement accounts (401(k), IRA, etc.). These transfer directly to the named beneficiaries on your accounts and are not subject to probate. That’s why it’s so important to review all your beneficiary designations on a regular basis.
- Durable power of attorney (POA): A durable POA empowers your “agent” to carry out any legal and/or financial decisions that have to be made on your behalf during your lifetime if you are unable to do so. Unlike POAs that extend specific or limited powers, a durable POA doesn’t end if you become incapacitated. However, all POAs end upon your death.
- Living will: Also called a healthcare proxy, this document enables you to 1) specify the kind of medical care you do or do not wish to receive in the event of temporary or long-term incapacity and 2) name who will make important healthcare and end-of-life decisions on your behalf.
- Trust: While not everyone needs a trust, it can provide the confidence that you have a plan in place to help provide for the tax-efficient management of family assets and to direct their use and distribution in accordance with your wishes, among many other objectives.
To learn more about how estate planning can help you live your best life, while protecting the people and things you care about most, call the office to schedule time to talk.
This communication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information on the subjects covered. It is not, however, intended to provide specific legal, tax, or other professional advice. For specific professional assistance, the services of an appropriate professional should be sought.
How to Master Financial Literacy at Any Age
While understanding basic financial concepts, such as saving, investing and budgeting, is important at any age, it’s critical for those nearing or living in retirement. That’s because retirement marks a major shift from a lifetime of accumulating assets during your working years, to how you will use those assets to create a tax-efficient income stream to support your lifestyle for the next 20 or 30+ years.
That requires a comprehensive approach to protecting and growing your assets to support your desired lifestyle. Mastering financial basics, including how to budget, avoid scams, and manage income and debt can also help you accomplish other important retirement goals, such as remaining independent longer.
Whether you’re looking to brush up on a single topic or enroll in a course on financial management, consider the following resources, available at no cost to you.
- Videos: Khan Academy offers engaging and easy-to-follow video presentations on dozens of financial topics from budgeting to investing, taxes and safeguarding your assets.
- Podcasts: As part of its Money Smart program for adults, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) offers a series of podcasts designed to demystify personal finances, explain consumer protection measures, teach about savings, credit, loans and more.
- Webinars: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers monthly webinars on different financial education topics. If you missed one, past webinars are added to the archive for easy access to pre-recorded events on your schedule.
- Articles: Founded in 1950, the National Council on Aging (NCO) is the nation’s longest-serving national organization focused on aging. NCO offers a wide variety of articles, programs and resources for older adults and caregivers, including an online tool for accessing financial assistance programs in all 50 states.
- News and information: As longtime advocates for programs, policies and legislation affecting seniors at the state and national levels, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is a good source for the latest news and information on issues impacting your taxes, savings, Social Security, Medicare and more.
- College classes and workshops: Looking to go a little deeper? Many colleges and universities offer online courses and workshops on economics, personal finance and investing to seniors at no cost or for a reduced fee, including a full roster of free online classes at MIT Sloan School of Management. Be sure to check your local community college and state colleges and universities, as well. Many offer special programs and in-state discounts for seniors.
If you have questions about managing your finances, we’re happy to help. Call the office to schedule time to talk.