A Comprehensive Approach to Family Estate Planning

"What are your plans?"

Planning is central to adult life – our routes to and from work, our kids' after-school activities, our errands, even our meals. Consider how far ahead you plan – the end of the day, the week or the month? The longest-term plan you can put in place is your estate plan, which can intentionally create a legacy for you and your family. 

Have you gone as far as to plan for what will happen when you’re no longer here? If your answer is "no," you're not alone. Recent statistics suggest that more than half of Americans die without a will or an estate plan. For those who have one, a high percentage of wills are not up to date. 

The story beneath those headline figures are troubling. In 2017, AARP reported that just under half the people without estate plans said they simply had not gotten around to creating them. A similar figure felt their assets weren’t worth enough to bother. More than half worried about finding a trustworthy financial advisor they could create a plan with.
 
Consider an even simpler fact: Besides being understandably intimidated by conversations about the end of their lives, many people would not know where to start with estate planning.

So, here are the basics. Your will, listing the assets you will leave behind, is the centerpiece of most estate plans. The executor of your will administers the distribution of those assets, and also covers things like guardianship of your minor children. 

There are also trusts, which can manage your assets while you are alive. Living trusts, for example, are a good source of security in the event you are incapacitated at any stage of your life, and unable to manage them on your own. These trusts can also simplify some of the processes involved in asset distribution when you pass. 

You may have heard of a "power of attorney," which gives your chosen representative the power to make decisions on your behalf when you cannot make them on your own for whatever reason. These include healthcare decisions or decisions according to your living will.

A complete estate planning experience spreads beyond the basics to include tax considerations, funeral and probate fees, and so on. It lays the groundwork for harmonious relationships between your heirs and minimizes the prospect of damaging and costly legal battles after the fact. Of course, the opposite is also true: Plan wrong, and the results are potentially catastrophic.

While every estate plan creates instructions on how your money passes on to heirs, some families would rather prioritize passing along the family values. This can be done within the estate planning documents as a letter of intention, or it can be done during your life by mentoring your heirs and having meaningful conversations about money.

Family money can be viewed along a continuum that ranges from seeing it as an instrument that is built, saved and judiciously invested, to an end in itself, existing to be spent on life’s pleasures. It can be a source of security and of valuable life lessons, or a source of tensions over perceived trust, love and unfair reward.

In those conversations, your family's values should drive expectations and recommendations about spending, investing, and charitable giving. Ask yourself: How would you define "success," and what would it mean to you after you are gone? This is how you build a legacy.

Choosing the right wealth manager can help you and your family explore everything.

At Century Wealth Management, we have a holistic approach and extensive industry experience to attend to the practical matters of estate planning, as well as guide decisions according to the core set of values that matter to you. We tailor estate planning to the unique circumstances of your family. 

There may be other questions or considerations on your mind, but not addressed in this piece, and we are just a phone call away. This is a subject more than worth talking about, if most of all for the peace of mind that you’ve made those plans, and we are ready for anything.

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