Your Legacy is About Much More Than Money

Michael D. Umphrey
November 1, 2007 — 1,337 views  
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As it stands today, any assets you want to leave at death will be taxed by the government.  Although it’s likely the estate tax will be changed or eliminated in the near future, your “people planning” issues remain very important.

If the estate tax is changed as we expect, many people could conclude that they don’t need an “estate plan.”  The following will help you understand that an estate plan (or, more accurately, a legacy plan) is about more than just money; it’s about taking control of your future.

Does your entire family understand (and, more importantly, agree with) your philosophy regarding health care matters, especially in a terminal situation?  You should get your health care wishes into a legally accurate document appointing one or more persons to carry out your intentions if you are physically or mentally unable to communicate them.

Have you detailed “who gets what and when” after you die?  Who is to take care of things?  If you do not have a complete legal road map for your assets, your heirs will have to pay attorneys and the probate court system to work out how this gets done.

What if you become incapacitated?  Probate involvement after your death is bad enough, but it is usually a fairly short-term process.  If you are incapacitated, proceedings go on as long as you are too ill or injured to take care of your own assets.  This can be entirely avoided with a legal document appointing one or more persons to act for you, should you become ill or injured.

Are you in a second (or third) marriage with “his and hers” children or perhaps with “his, hers and ours?”  Planning in advance for your wishes to be followed can save your family significant strife, grief and expense.

Does your spouse have physical, emotional or mental health issues that indicate a need for assistance upon your incapacity or death?  Do you have any concerns about your surviving spouse giving or leaving everything to a new spouse or “friend?”

How about your children?  Even if they are fine people, are they too young to receive too much all at once?  And if they’re not so fine, will leaving assets to them make their situation even worse?

Do you really want to work hard and save for years for a comfortable retirement and then leave an expensive, unplanned mess as your legacy when you are gone?  Do you want the IRS and the legal profession to get more of your money than is necessary, or would you rather benefit your family?

The bottom line: 
Think ahead about your family’s future, and put a plan in place now to ensure your wishes are carried out when you’re not around to take care of this yourself.

Michael D. Umphrey