By: Robert G. Carpenter
President & CEO
Millennials stand to inherit about $41 trillion from their baby boomer parents over the next four decades, representing the single largest intergenerational wealth transfer in the history of the US.
Many parents wonder whether their millennial children will be able to handle the responsibility of caring for them when they’re sick, not to mention handling their hard-earned money when they’re gone.
HAVING “THE TALK” WITH YOUR CHILDREN
Unfortunately, millennials and their parents aren’t talking about end-of-life care. About half of Americans die without a will or an estate plan in the United States. In order to save your loved ones from avoidable or additional pain with legal hassles, you should take the time to begin your estate planning today. At BWFA we work with families to strike the right balance and help preserve the family unity that is often most important to you as you plan ahead.
It can be difficult to share the intimate details of your personal finances and we see this with everyone who goes through this process, especially if you’ve always sought to shelter your children from these types of matters. But not talking about end-of-life are and estate planning can leave them in an even worse situation.
After a parent’s death we see strife develop between siblings and/or family because they disagree about how to handle the estate in a fair and equitable manner. In addition, if you wait too long you might be unable to make important decisions on your own when they are needed. We know this is not what you want and we will help guide you through this important and sometimes difficult process.
Your own estate plan will have a direct and profound impact on your children’s own financial plans. In order to avoid unnecessary surprises and to ensure that your wishes are carried out, your children need to be aware of your plans. This could affect both their future finances as well as the big life choices they have to make now.
The planners at BWFA use various trust vehicles and financial planning strategies for wealth transfer so that you can precisely control the distribution of your assets over time. Trustees who serve as beneficiaries can help to avoid conflict. We know these issues are difficult to discuss, and we’ll help to explain the specifics of your plan to your children and how they fit into it.
ESTATE PLANNING 101
As you think about transferring your wealth to your children, it’s important to remember that their responsibility for making important decisions might begin as you get older and can’t make them for yourself, either because of mental decline or sickness.
As with all things financial, there are a host of documents that should be in place in order to ensure that you’ve covered all possibilities.
• Wills: Your will outlines who will be in charge of your estate at the time of your death. Designating the executor of your will is just the first step.
• Living Trust: This is the “preferred” method of transferring assets upon your death. A living trust can help your loved ones avoid probate when you pass away. Trusts typically contain personal property and documentation indicating what should happen to these assets once you’ve died.
• Durable Power of Attorney: This document ensures a person of your choosing has the authority to make decisions regarding your life if you are “incapacitated” or unable to make decisions on your own. This includes financial and legal decisions.
• Health-Care Proxy: Similar to the durable power of attorney, your medical power of attorney has the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make these decisions yourself.
• Advanced Health-Care Directive: This form allows you to list your health-care preferences. It can be used in conjunction with your health-care proxy to ensure that decisions regarding your medical wishes are enacted as closely to your wishes as possible.
• HIPPA Release Form: When dealing with medical issues, another hurdle that can be prevented by preemptive preparation is a HIPPA release form. This form allows those people listed on your advanced health care directive—in addition to your health-care proxy—be allowed to access your health-care information so they can deal with matters on your behalf should you be unable to.
• Tax documents: We have all heard of “death and taxes,” but how familiar are you with “taxes in death”? That is right—death, while inevitable, does not stop taxes. Even after you have left your physical body, your essence can be taxed. While the majority of taxpayers do not meet the requirements (and therefore do not have to worry about federal estate taxes), it is important to be aware of their existence. The current lifetime exemption for gift and estate taxes is any combined amount up to $5.45 million ($10.9 million for a married couple), but there are some exceptions. Certain types of property could be considered part of your estate by the government, such as life insurance policies, pensions, retirement plan funds, and past sizable gifts. Furthermore, some states have a state estate tax in addition to federal estate taxes.
Source: Rebecca Sheppard, Benzinga
NOW IS THE BEST TIME TO PLAN
If you don’t plan now, and the unimaginable becomes reality, your loved ones will face legal obstacles, hurdles, and battles that could have been avoided. By working with BWFA, we can put a plan in place that fulfills your needs and wishes. We work closely with an attorney that specializes in this area so that you can help your loved ones avoid unnecessary costs, financial duress, legal headaches, and additional pain.
Always be prepared for the worst. While I’m not suggesting you adopt a pessimistic view on life, I am encouraging you to make sure you and your loved ones are taken care of. Not only will this provide you a level of comfort and assurance but your family will also be grateful to you for clearly defining your wishes and intentions. It’s easy to procrastinate on these matters and some never get around to setting up an estate plan. By using some proven planning methods and a trusted advisor, you can feel safe and secure in the establishment of your plan.