Does Your Bumper Sticker Read ‘We’re Spending Our Children’s Inheritance’?

Once you get to retirement, it’s important to identify what your goals are for your nest egg. Do you intend to spend it down enjoying your golden years, pursuing passions and activities that bring you and your spouse joy, or do you want to leave an inheritance to loved ones? The question is posed in the article “Will You Spend Your Retirement Savings or Leave It Behind? The Answer May Surprise You,” from the Warwick Advertiser.

For many people, the goal of retirement is to do all the things that had to be put off while working. That might include a hobby that requires time and resources, travelling, purchasing a vacation home, or fulfilling a dream of going back to school. If that’s your retirement dream, bear in mind that these dreams all come with costs. Spending in the early stages of retirement often goes up, as retirees are still healthy enough to do everything on their bucket lists.

Given the reality of longer life expectancies, it’s important for retirees to understand that they may be living from their retirement investments for three or more decades. That means that you’ll need to have enough money to cover routine expenses plus health care and most likely, long-term health care services. Make sure your financial planning takes these factors into account.

Once you know how much money you’ll need for your costs of living and health care, plus inflation, then what’s left behind is your retirement fun money.

Knowing how to work within the constraints of a budget, is actually more important during retirement. You can’t just go back to work for a few decades, if you find yourself running short. You still may need to pick up a part-time gig on the side. However, that income is quite lower than a full-time position at the peak of your earning career.

What if leaving a legacy is more important to you than buying a second home? Just like the plan for retirement fun, you’ll need to do some financial planning to make this goal come to fruition. Remember that your legacy will include whatever is left at the time of your death, as well as what you may give while you are living.

Giving your children or grandchildren their inheritance while you are alive, is a way to enjoy the gift twice — once when you give and a second time when you see what they do with your gift. You might want to help the family reach their own financial milestone, like covering the cost of a college degree, helping with a deposit on a home or helping to pay off a mortgage.

Charitable giving may also be part of your legacy. If there is a charity, foundation, or alma mater that aligns with your values, you may choose to set aside a portion of your estate for a donation.

Regardless of whether you are planning on spending everything, giving away your assets to family members, or to a preferred charity, an estate plan is necessary to ensure that your wishes will be followed.

Your estate plan needs to include written instructions on how you want your assets to be distributed. That usually happens through a will, and trusts are often part of an estate plan. Make sure that you know what your beneficiary designations are—these are the people who are named in your insurance policies, investment accounts, IRAs, 401(k), or other retirement accounts. They will receive the assets as noted in the beneficiary designations, regardless of what your will says.

Reference: Warwick Advertiser (April 18, 2019) “Will You Spend Your Retirement Savings or Leave It Behind? The Answer May Surprise You”

 

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As a New Parent, Have You Updated (or Created) Your Estate Plan?

You just had a baby. Now you’re sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, and frazzled. Having a child dramatically changes one’s legacy plan and makes having a plan all the more necessary, says ThinkAdvisor’s recent article, “5 Legacy Planning Basics for New Parents.”

Take time to talk through two high-priority items. Create a staggered checklist—starting with today—and set attainable dates to complete the rest of the tasks. Here are five things to put on that list:

  1. Will. This gives the probate court your instructions on who will care for your children, if something happens to both you and your spouse. A will also should name a guardian to be responsible for the children. Parents also should think about how they want to share their personal belongings and financial assets. Without a will, the state decides what goes to whom. Lastly, a will must name an executor.
  2. Beneficiaries. Review your beneficiary designations when you create your will, because you don’t want your will and designations (on life insurance policies and investments) telling two different stories. If there’s an issue, the beneficiary designation overrides the will. All accounts with a beneficiary listed automatically avoid probate court.
  3. Trust. Created by an experienced estate planning attorney, a trust has some excellent benefits, particularly if you have young children. Everything in a trust is shielded from probate court, including property. This avoids court fees and hassle. A trust also provides some flexibility and customization to your plan. You can instruct that your children get a sum of money at 18, 25 or 30, and you can say that the money is for school, among other conditions. The trustee will distribute funds, according to your instructions.
  4. Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy. These are two separate documents, but they’re both used in the event of incapacitation. Their power of attorney and health care proxy designees can make important financial and medical decisions, when you’re incapable of doing so.
  5. Life Insurance. Most people don’t think about purchasing life insurance, until they have children. Therefore, if you haven’t thought about it, you’re not alone. If you are among the few who bought a policy pre-child, consider increasing the amount so your child is covered, if something should happen.

Reference: ThinkAdvisor (March 7, 2019) “5 Legacy Planning Basics for New Parents”

 

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How Can I Goof Up My Estate Plan?

There are several critical errors you can make that will render an estate plan invalid. Many of these can be easily avoided, by examining your plan periodically and keeping it up to date.

Investopedia’s article, “5 Ways to Mess Up Estate Planning” gives us a list of these common issues.

Not Updating Beneficiary Designations. Be certain those to whom you intend to leave your assets are clearly named on the proper forms. Whenever there’s a life change, update your financial, retirement, and insurance accounts and policies, as well as your estate planning documents.

Forgetting Key Legal Documents. Revocable living trusts are the primary vehicle used to keep some assets from probate. However, having only trusts without a will can be a mistake—the will is the document where you designate the guardian of your minor children, if something should happen to you and/or your spouse.

Bad Recordkeeping. Leaving a mess is a headache. Your family won’t like having to spend time and effort finding, organizing and locating your assets. Draft a letter of instruction that tells your executor where everything is located, the names and contact information of your banker, broker, insurance agent, financial planner, attorney etc.. Make a list of the financial websites you use with their login information, so your accounts can be accessed.

Faulty Communication. Telling your heirs about your plans can be made easier with a simple letter of explanation that states your intentions, or even tells them why you changed your mind about something. This could help give them some closure or peace of mind, even though it has no legal authority.

Not Creating a Plan. This last one is one of the most common. There are plenty of stories of extremely wealthy people who lose most, if not all, of their estate to court fees and legal costs, because they didn’t have an estate plan.

These are just a few of the common estate planning errors that happen. For more information on how to be certain your assets will be dispersed according to your wishes, talk with a qualified estate planning attorney.

Reference: Investopedia (September 30, 2018) “5 Ways to Mess Up Estate Planning”

 

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