“To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy.” That subtitle of a book by Stephen R. Covey provides insight into our lives. Why is that last part so difficult? People’s eyes light up when they talk about how they want to impact the world, but mention estate planning, which is essentially preparing for the transfer of your “wealth” measured in financial and other terms, and, too often, the conversation crashes.
Almost everyone realizes the importance of planning, yet according to the American Bar Association, fifty-five percent of Americans die without a will or estate plan.1 Why the disconnect? Frequently cited reasons include aversion to talking about mortality, pervasive busy-ness leaving not enough time to plan, complexity, and even lack of awareness of having planning needs.
Do not fall into the trap. Ben Franklin wisely said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That 16:1 ratio might literally be accurate. A recent study estimates nationwide probate costs at $2 billion annually.2 Talk to someone cleaning up their parent’s unplanned estate. Listen to a devastated young family dealing with the aftermath of an unexpected death. “Costs” are not always measured in dollars.
Work with your advisor or attorney to get your plan in place. Commit to getting a will or trust in place. Ensure your finances are transferred according to your wishes. Protect your assets from unforeseen creditors. And, certainly for young families, provide for and protect young children. Make sure you also have power of attorney documents in place to protect against disability. Execute health care powers of attorney and living wills to provide guidance on difficult choices, should you need serious medical treatment.
These documents cover the basics, but remember, your legacy extends beyond money. Be intentional about passing on your values and your story. Remember, the proverb says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.”
1 American Bar Association study quoted in FPA Journal of Financial Planning, March 2017
2 Morris, Hay & Kinghorn, quoted in FPA Journal of Financial Planning, March 2017
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