Planning. We all know we should do it. Indeed, we all do it much of the time to some degree. We plan dinners. We plan parties. We plan vacations. Legacy or estate planning is our ultimate chance to plan the future. You’ve been financially responsible all your life and have worked hard to build the foundation of assets upon which you plan to retire. Now it’s time to think about what might happen to all of that in the event of your death.
Do You Have to Leave a Legacy?
There are two schools of thought. First are those who feel they have earned the right – literally – to enjoy retirement to the fullest and spend down those assets. Leaving a legacy is optional; a “nice to do” but not required. Then there are those who feel it is the continuation of parental responsibility; one last contribution to the security of one’s children and grandchildren. In either case, as part of your retirement plans, you do need a legacy or estate plan so that any assets you may have when you die will go to those whom you wish and, in a manner designated by you not by the government of the state in which you live.
Who Matters to You?
As you begin to formulate your legacy, ask yourself whom do you want to receive your assets and possessions when you pass away. Typically, this would be your children, but it could be parents, nieces, nephews, close friends or others you simply wish to acknowledge or benefit such as a charity or nonprofit organization. Whom you choose to include is very much up to you.
Passing on Your Legacy
As you consider those to whom you want to leave a legacy, you might think about how best to convey an inheritance. For most adult beneficiaries, one lump sum would probably do. Yet, if the beneficiary is weak in money management skills or is in a marriage you view as less than secure, there are other options to protect your legacy from bad decisions, divorce or lawsuits. These include establishing a staggered trust to disburse assets in stages (i.e., when the beneficiary reaches age 25, 30 and 35) or in some other form of trust.
If your legacy plan includes one or more minor beneficiaries, things get a little more complex as, legally, they cannot inherit property. In addition to the options mentioned above, when it comes to a minor’s inheritance, there are restricted accounts such as those established under the applicable state Uniform Transfers to Minor Act (UTMA account) or Uniform Gifts to Minor Act. (UGMA account).
Not everyone needs to establish a trust or a restricted account. You should consult with your legal, tax or financial professional who can provide guidance on your situation and concerns.
Estate planning can be your contribution to the future. It allows you to direct how your remaining assets are distributed. It can allow you to contribute to the security of someone important to you or further the cause of an organization you wish to support. It is an important part of good retirement planning.
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