When it’s time to plan for your financial legacy, there are many considerations to take into account. As you prepare for an ultimate transfer of wealth, take the time to define your values and the lessons you aim to pass on to future generations. Consider what meaning money holds for you. For some people, it signifies personal accomplishment, while for others it is the chance to make a difference in the world. Some simply appreciate its ability to provide for their families. Taking time to set your financial priorities can be instrumental in designing an impactful wealth plan.
Through philanthropic endeavors, you have an opportunity to impact the world. What impact you wish to make is shaped by your priorities and values. Philanthropy is not just an activity for the very wealthy; there are many creative ways to giving. Strategies may include making donations to your preferred charities or using donor-advised funds to maintain flexibility in when you give while enjoying immediate tax benefit.
There is an emotional component to estate planning that can be managed by setting consistent boundaries. Defining your parameters will make it easier to set priorities, explain your decision-making process and manage expectations. Each plan is highly personalized and should align with your financial values and gifting strategies. It is essential to create a formal will to communicate how your estate should be distributed upon your death, provide the basis for the probate process and serve as a guide for your heirs.
You may also choose to consider writing a letter of Instruction. Though this document carries no legal status, it can serve as a roadmap to help your loved ones settle your estate. Unlike a will, which must follow legal guidelines for your state and may require an attorney, a letter of instruction can be written by yourself to communicate a variety of important topics including:
Financial accounts and account numbers including online usernames and passwords
A list of documents and their locations, including (but not limited to) your will, insurance policies, tax returns, bank and investment account documents, real estate deeds and mortgage documents, vehicle titles, Social Security and Medicare cards, marriage and/or divorce papers, and birth certificate
Contact information for professionals who handle your financial and legal affairs, i.e., your attorney, financial advisor, insurance agent, accountant, business partners or trusted friends
Bills and creditors, including when payments are due and other pertinent information, such as loan terms and balances as of the date of the letter
Your final wishes for burial or cremation, a funeral or memorial service, organ donation, and charitable contributions in your memory
Personal thoughts or life lessons that you want to pass on
No matter what your legacy you strive to leave, review your plan on a regular basis to ensure that it is up-to-date. By identifying your values and taking the time to prepare, you are laying the groundwork for the future and solidifying the principles that guide your financial decisions.
Whether you purchased life insurance years ago and haven’t since thought of it or don’t have life insurance and now need it, changing life circumstances offer a fresh opportunity to review your status. The cost and availability of life insurance depend on factors such as age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. Before implementing a life insurance strategy, as with most financial decisions, it’s important to get an understanding of the options and associated expenses.
It’s especially good practice to review your life insurance policy upon the following circumstances:
If your spouse is dependent upon your income, life insurance benefits will be necessary for that individual to meet expenses and pay debts. The amount of life insurance coverage required depends on your income, debts, assets and financial goals. Your employer’s life insurance benefits might not be enough to bridge the gap.
When children arrive, revisiting your life insurance needs to review your policy limits and beneficiary designations could help you protect your growing family’s financial security. Life insurance proceeds might help your family meet both their current obligations, such as a mortgage, childcare, or car payments, and future expenses, including a child’s college education.
As you prepare to leave the workforce, reevaluate your need for life insurance regardless of how many assets you’ve accumulated to provide for family or replace retirement income lost when you are no longer around.
Life insurance can be an important tool to help you transfer wealth to the next generation, pay your estate tax bill or leave a donation to charity.
A common concern is that life insurance coverage will change based on a decline in health, but this is not the case if you maintain your premium payments. Some life insurance policies even offer accelerated (living) benefits that you can access in the event of a serious or long-term illness. You may even qualify for a lower premium if your health has improved.