By Bennett Whitlock, CRPC®, Private Wealth Advisor
Estate planning can be a tough and emotional conversation to initiate with your loved ones. But it may not be as challenging as you think. Recent research from Ameriprise Financial confirms that families who have had the conversation say it went better than they expected. In Ameriprise’s Family Wealth Checkup study (November/December 2016), families (adults ages of 25-70 with at least $25,000 in investable assets) said their discussions were straightforward and open, rather than difficult or awkward. Hopefully, this gives you more motivation to communicate with your loved ones and to start thinking about your own estate planning needs. The following steps can help you get started with planning your legacy:
1. Take care of basic legal matters. A key to having your affairs in order is to take time to create or update your estate plan, which encompasses anything you own, such as real estate, cars, life insurance, and financial accounts, including your retirement plans and personal possessions, as well as your online assets and accounts. An estate plan documents your wishes for what happens to these assets and accounts in the event of your death. Estate plans commonly include the following components:
- A current will stating how you’d like your assets distributed. If you have minor children, a will allows you to nominate a guardian to care for your children.
- Trust documents, if establishing a trust to hold your assets is appropriate for your circumstances
- A health care directive that outlines your desires related to medical treatment.
- A plan to cover legal fees, taxes, funeral costs and final medical expenses
Creating an estate plan can be challenging, depending on the complexity of your situation. An attorney, financial advisor and estate planner can help you establish a plan that works for you, no matter the size of your estate.
2. Put proper protection in place. Purchasing life insurance when you are younger has significant advantages. Premiums tend to be lower, so choosing a death benefit that can be sufficient to meet your family’s needs is realistic. It’s important to determine if you have an appropriate level of coverage to suit your needs. If you already have life insurance, review your coverage with a financial professional to make certain you have the right kind—and amount—of protection in place.
3. Know where your investments stand. Make sure that you (and your spouse if you’re married) have clear financial goals and know your progress toward achieving them. While your portfolio is likely set up to achieve longer-term goals, make sure you have the appropriate number of assets in shorter-term liquid investments that you or your loved ones can access quickly if an unexpected event occurs. And finally, review the beneficiary designations on your accounts to ensure they are up-to-date.
As you continue to plan for a good, long life, devote a modest amount of time to making sure your legacy is well-protected.
Bennett Whitlock, CRPC ®, is a private wealth advisor and managing director with Whitlock Wealth Management, a franchise of Ameriprise Financial Services Inc. Learn more at WhitlockWealth.com or call 703-492-7732.