Spare Them What You Can

By The Advocates

Legacy planning is a euphemism used to put a friendlier face on the reality of planning for your own death. In 12 years, I’ve only met a handful of clients who were truly resistant to this part of the financial planning process, but I’ve never met a client who liked it.

It’s depressing. No one wants to face an existential crisis over a lunch meeting with an estate attorney. It’s also pretty expensive. Rates vary, but it’s usually somewhere in the $2,500 range. I think I’d rather buy a kayak.

A good set of estate documents, however, maybe among the most valuable things you ever buy. Last week’s article was a portrait of the decline of a once vibrant man who suffered more than a decade with Alzheimer’s disease.

He was lucky enough to have Paul Palmer, Jr. as a son. Because Paul Jr. is a financial planner, what could be done in advance, was. In doing this, he spared his family the burden of major decisions in the wake of his father’s passing.

Financial planning is not the same as estate planning. We are not attorneys or legal experts. A good financial planner, however, will ask about your estate documents, and whether or not they meet your current wishes and needs. You’d be surprised how often they are not updated after major life events. All of this impacts your financial well-being.

A typical set of quality estate documents includes your Will and a set of ancillary documents: medical and durable powers of attorney, advance directives, and others specific to your situation. Most of them include a letter of instruction that shows how to name your beneficiaries on various types of accounts and insurance policies so that they align with your will, which is important because account and/or policy level beneficiary designations override your Will.

Want to know if you should have your documents updated? Ask yourself if any of the below has changed since the last update. If so, you should consult a reputable estate attorney for a potential update.

  • Have I moved to another state or country?
  • Have I purchased property in another state or country?
  • Does my Will accurately reflect my wishes?
  • Do I have the right ancillary documents? Medical POA? Durable POA? Advance Directive?
  • Have I inherited any assets?
  • Have there been any changes to my chosen guardians, beneficiaries, or charities?

Moreover, we recommend adult children get at least medical and durable powers of attorney once they turn 18. I doubt any parent wants to be sidelined in medical decision making for the college-age child.

If you don’t have estate documents at all, don’t delay any longer. While we’d love to see you embark on a holistic planning journey toward living your values, it’s not a prerequisite. Go, get it done. Give yourself and your family a little peace of mind.  

Let us help you live your values. Schedule a free, no obligation appointment today.