Category Archives: Legacy Planning

4 Ways Estate Planning Can Improve Relationships with Loved Ones

Like me, you probably spent lots of time with family and friends over the holidays. And I hope, like me, that time reminded you of just how important and special these relationships can be.

Though you might not realize it, estate planning has the potential to enhance those relationships in some major ways. Planning requires you to closely consider your relationships with family and friends—past, present, and future—like never before. Indeed, the process can be the ultimate forum for heartfelt communication, fostering a deeper bond and sense of intimacy, and prioritizing what matters most in life.

Here are just a few of the valuable ways estate planning can improve the relationships you cherish most:

1) It shows you sincerely care
Taking the time and effort to carefully plan for what will happen to you in the event of your incapacity or death is a genuine demonstration of your love. It would be far easier to do nothing and simply let you family and friends figure it out for themselves. After all, you won’t be around to deal with any of the fallout.

Planning in advance, though, shows that you truly care about the welfare of your loved ones. Such selfless concern and forethought equates to nothing less than a final expression of your unconditional love.

2) It inspires honest communication about difficult issues
Sitting down and having an honest discussion about life’s most taboo subjects—incapacity and death—is almost certain to bring you and your loved ones closer. By facing immortality together, planning has a way of highlighting what’s really important in life—and what’s not.

In fact, our clients consistently share that after going through our estate planning process they feel more connected to the people they love the most. And they also feel clearer about the lives they want to live during the fleeting time we have here on earth.

Planning offers the opportunity to talk openly about matters you may not have even considered. When it comes to choices about distributing assets and naming executors and trustees, you’ll have a chance to engage in frank discussions about why you made the choices you did. And that may just be the first step in actively addressing and healing any problems that may be lurking under the surface of your relationships.

3) It builds a deep sense of trust and respect
Whether it’s the individuals you name as your children’s legal guardians or those you nominate to handle your own end-of-life care, estate planning shows your loved ones just how much you trust and admire them. What greater honor can you bestow upon another than putting your own life and those of your children in their hands?

Though it’s often challenging to verbally express how much you love your family and friends, estate planning demonstrates your affection in a truly tangible way. And once these people see exactly how much you value them, it can foster a deepening of your relationship with one another.

4) It creates a lasting legacy
While estate planning is primarily viewed as a way to pass on your financial wealth and property, it can offer your loved ones much more than just financial security. When done right, it also lets you hand down the most precious assets of all—your life stories, lessons, and values.

In fact, the wisdom and experience you’ve gained during your lifetime are among the most treasured gifts you can give. Left to chance, these gifts are often lost forever. Considering this, our planning process includes a means of preserving and passing on these intangible assets.

We guide clients to create a customized video in which they share their most insightful memories and experiences with those they’re leaving behind. This not only ensures our clients are able to say everything that needs to be said, but that their legacy carries on long after they—and their money—are gone.

The heart of the matter
Estate planning doesn’t have to be a dreary and depressing affair. When done right, it can put your life and relationships into a much clearer focus and ultimately be a tremendously uplifting experience for everyone involved. Contact us today to learn more.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Use Estate Planning to Enrich Your Family With More Than Just Material Wealth

In the weeks before her death from ovarian cancer, author Amy Krouse Rosenthal gave her husband Jason one of the most treasured gifts a person could receive.

She penned the touching essay “You May Want to Marry My Husband” in the New York Times as a final love letter to him. The essay took the form of a heart-wrenching yet-humorous dating profile that encouraged him to begin dating again once she was gone. In her opening description of Jason, she writes:

“He is an easy man to fall in love with. I did it in one day.”

What followed was an intimate list of attributes and anecdotes, highlighting what she loved most about Jason. It reads like a love story, encompassing 26 years of marriage, three grown children, and a bond that will last forever. She finished the essay on Valentine’s Day, concluding with:

“The most genuine, non-vase-oriented gift I can hope for is that the right person reads this, finds Jason, and another love story begins.”

Just 10 days after the essay was published in March 2017, Amy died at age 51.

Finding meaning again
Amy’s essay immediately went viral, and Jason received countless letters from women across the globe. Although he has yet to begin a new relationship, Jason said the outpouring of letters gave him “solace and even laughter” in the darkest days following his wife’s death.

Just over a year later, Jason wrote his own essay for the Times, “My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me,” in which he expressed how grateful he was for Amy’s words and recounted the lessons he’d learned about loss and grief since her passing.

He said his wife’s parting gift “continues to open doors for me, to affect my choices, to send me off into the world to make the most of it.” Jason has since given a TED Talk on his grieving process in hopes of helping others deal with loss, something he said he never would’ve done without Amy’s motivation.

Toward the end of his essay, Jason gave readers a bit of advice for how they can provide their loved ones with a similar gift:

“Talk with your mate, your children, and other loved ones about what you want for them when you are gone,” he wrote. “By doing this, you give them liberty to live a full life and eventually find meaning again.”

Preserving your intangible assets
This moving story highlights what could be the most valuable, yet often-overlooked aspect of estate planning. Planning isn’t just about preserving and passing on your financial wealth and property in the event of your death or incapacity. When done right, it equates to sharing your family’s stories, values, life lessons, and experiences, so your legacy carries on long after you (and your money) are gone.

Indeed, as the Rosenthals demonstrate, these intangible assets can be among the most profound gifts you can give. Of course, not everyone has the talent or time to write a similarly moving essay or have it published in the New York Times, nor is that necessary.

Priceless conversations
Our Family Legacy Interview (included in all of our estate plans) guides you to create a customized video in which you share your most insightful memories and life lessons with those you love most.

We’ve developed a series of helpful questions and prompts to make the process of sharing your life experiences not only easy, but enjoyable. And this isn’t something you have to do on your own—which you know you wouldn’t get around to—as we do it with you as an integral part of your planning services.

In the end, your family’s most precious wealth is not money, but the memories you make, the values you instill, and the lessons you hand down. And left to chance, these assets are likely to be lost forever.

If you want to pass down a truly meaningful legacy, one that can provide the kind of inspiration Amy’s letter did for Jason, contact us. Our customized estate planning services will preserve and pass on not only your financial wealth, but your most treasured family values as well. Start by scheduling a Family Estate Planning Session, where we’ll discuss what kind of assets you have, what matters most to you, and what you want to leave behind.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

 

When Something is NOT Better Than Nothing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go online, and you’ll find tons of websites offering do-it-yourself estate planning documents. Such forms are typically quite inexpensive. Simple wills, for example, are often priced under $50, and you can complete and print them out in a matter of minutes.

In our uber-busy lives and DIY culture, it’s no surprise that this kind of thing might seem like a good – if not great – deal. You know estate planning is important, and even though you may not be getting the highest quality plan, such documents can make you feel better for having checked this item off your life’s lengthy to-do list.

But this is one case in which SOMETHING is not better than nothing, and here’s why:

A false sense of security
Creating a DIY will online can lead you to believe that you no longer must worry about estate planning. You got it done, right?

Except that you didn’t. In fact, you thought you “got it done” because you went online, printed a form, and had it notarized, but you didn’t bother to investigate what would happen with that document in the event of your incapacity or death.

In the end, what seemed like a bargain could end up costing your family more money and heartache than if you’d never gotten around to doing anything at all.

Not just about filling out forms
Unfortunately, because many people don’t understand that estate planning entails much more than just filling out legal documents, they end up making serious mistakes with DIY plans. Worst of all, these mistakes are only discovered when you become incapacitated or die, and it’s too late. The people left to deal with your mistakes are often the very ones you were trying to do right by.

The primary purpose of wills and other estate planning tools is to keep your family out of court and out of conflict in the event of your death or incapacity. With the growing popularity of DIY wills, tens of thousands of families (and millions more to come) have learned the hard way that trying to handle estate planning alone can not only fail to fulfill this purpose, it can make the court cases and conflicts far worse and more expensive.

The hidden dangers of DIY wills
From the specific state you live in and the wording of the document to the required formalities for how it must be signed and witnessed, there are numerous potential dangers involved with DIY wills and other estate planning documents. Estate planning is most definitely not a one-size-fits-all deal. Even if you think you have a simple situation, that’s almost never the case.

The following scenarios are just a few of the most common complications that can result from attempting to go it alone with a DIY will:

  • Improper execution: For a will to be valid, it must be executed (i.e. signed and witnessed or notarized) following strict legal procedures. If your DIY will doesn’t specific guidance or you fail to follow this procedure precisely, your will can be worthless.
  • Court challenges: Creditors, heirs, and other interested parties will have the opportunity to contest your will or make claims against your estate. Though wills created with an attorney’s guidance can also be contested, DIY wills are not only far more likely to be challenged, but the chances of those challenges being successful are much greater than if you have an attorney-drafted will.
  • Thinking a will is enough: A will alone is almost never sufficient to handle all of your legal affairs. In the event of your incapacity, you would also need a health care directive, and/or a living will plus a durable financial power of attorney. In the event of your death, a will does nothing to keep your loved one’s out of court. And if you have minor children, having a will alone could leave your kids’ at risk of being taken out of your home and into the care of strangers, at least temporarily.

In many ways, DIY estate planning is the worst choice you can make for the people you love because you think you’ve got it covered, when you most certainly do not.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

6 Key Steps For Conscious Co-Parenting: Part Two

Last week, I shared the first part of this series, discussing some of the key steps for conscious co-parenting. In part two, we continue with the final steps.

Conscious co-parenting after divorce is a child-centered process, where both you and your ex-spouse agree to work as cooperative partners for the sake of your kids. This ultimately helps both you and your children adapt in a healthier way.

Such collaboration can be challenging, but last week I offered three ways you can successfully navigate the process. Here  are three additional ways to make conscious co-parenting work for you:

 4. Respect your co-parent’s time with the children

Conscious co-parenting is about demonstrating to your children that you still want the other parent in their lives.

It’s normal to miss your children when they’re away, but it will be easier and healthier for everyone if you don’t do anything that might stop your kids from having an enjoyable time when they’re with the co-parent. This means not scheduling children’s activities during the co-parent’s time, unless you’ve asked them first. It also means respecting their time together by not constantly calling or texting.

 5. Get outside support

When it comes to divorce, the experience is often painful and unsettling. The underlying emotions can be overwhelming if they aren’t processed properly, which can have negative effects on your parenting skills.

Given this, it’s crucial you have support systems in place to move through this phase of life. There’s no single solution, so try a few different supportive outlets to find the one(s) that most suit you.

Whether it’s therapy, support groups, trusted confidants, and/or meditative solitude, you should take this opportunity to practice self-care. For better or worse, our personal identities are often largely centered around our marriages, so it’s perfectly natural to go through a grieving process when they end. Just don’t let the grief become what defines you.

6. Use conscious co-parenting to achieve personal growth
While it may sound paradoxical, divorce can offer a perfect opportunity for personal growth. The steps discussed here can help you adjust to your new life in divorce’s immediate aftermath, but they can also allow you to better express yourself throughout your life overall.

Consciously choosing a cooperative co-parenting relationship is just the beginning. You can bring the same mindful focus to every other area of your life. Treating your co-parent in a compassionate, respectful, and patient manner can provide the foundation for how you deal with all of life’s relationships and circumstances.

By doing this, you can serve as a role model for your children, demonstrating how they can deal with adversity in their own lives. In fact, conscious co-parenting can provide them with an array of vital skills that will strengthen their ability to endure the trials and tribulations they’re likely face in the future.

From custody agreements to alimony payments, there are numerous legal issues that can arise when co-parenting, so be sure you have the legal support you need. And given the fact that your family structure has changed, you’ll want to update your estate plan as well. Please contact us today if we can be of any assistance.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Avoid This Major Mistake When Adding an IRA to Your Estate Plan

Some people assume that because they’ve named a specific heir as the beneficiary of their IRA in their will or trust that there’s no need to list the same person again as beneficiary in their IRA paperwork. Because of this, they often leave the IRA beneficiary form blank or list “my estate” as the beneficiary.

But this is a major mistake—and one that can lead to serious complications and expense.

IRAs Aren’t Like Other Estate Assets
First off, the person you name on your IRA’s beneficiary form is the one who will inherit the account’s funds, even if a different person is named in your will or in a trust. Your IRA beneficiary designation controls who gets the funds, no matter what you may indicate elsewhere.

Given this, you must ensure your IRA’s beneficiary designation form is up to date and lists either the name of the person you want to inherit your IRA, or the name of the trustee, if you want it to go to a revocable living trust or special IRA trust you’ve prepared. For example, if you listed an ex-spouse as the beneficiary of your IRA and forget to change it to your current spouse, your ex will get the funds when you die, even if your current spouse is listed as the beneficiary in your will.

Probate Problems
Moreover, not naming a beneficiary, or naming your “estate” in the IRA’s beneficiary designation form, means your IRA account will be subject to the court process called probate. Probate costs unnecessary time and money and guarantees your family will get stuck in court.

When you name your desired heir on the IRA beneficiary form, those funds will be available almost immediately to the named beneficiary following your death, and the money will be protected from creditors. But if your beneficiary must go through probate to claim the funds, he or she might have to wait months, or even years, for probate to be finalized.

Plus, your heir may also be on the hook for attorney and executor fees, as well as potential liabilities from creditor claims, associated with probate, thereby reducing the IRA’s total value.

Reduced Growth and Tax Savings
Another big problem caused by naming your estate in the IRA beneficiary designation or forgetting to name anyone at all is that your heir will lose out on an important opportunity for tax savings and growth of the funds. This is because the IRS calculates how the IRA’s funds will be dispersed and taxed based on the owner’s life expectancy. Since your estate is not a human, it’s ineligible for a valuable tax-savings option known as the “stretch provision” that would be available had you named the appropriate beneficiary.

Typically, when an individual is named as the IRA’s beneficiary, he or she can choose to take only the required minimum distributions over the course of his or her life expectancy. “Stretching” out the payments in this way allows for much more tax-deferred growth of the IRA’s invested funds and minimizes the amount of income tax due when withdrawals are made.

However, if the IRA’s beneficiary designation lists “my estate” or is left blank, the option to stretch out payments is no longer available. In such cases, if you die before April 1st of the year you reach 70 ½ years old (the required beginning date for distributions), your estate will have to pay out all of the IRA’s funds within five years of your death. If you die after age 70 1/2, the estate will have to make distributions over your remaining life expectancy.

This means the beneficiary who eventually gets your IRA funds from your estate will have to take the funds sooner—and pay the deferred taxes upon distribution. This limits their opportunity for additional tax-deferred growth of the account and requires him or her to pay a potentially hefty income tax bill.

A Simple Fix
Fortunately, preventing these complications is super easy—just be sure to name your chosen heir as beneficiary in your IRA paperwork (along with at least one alternate beneficiary). And remember to update the named beneficiary if your life circumstances change, such as after a death or divorce.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Does a Dynasty Trust Make Sense for Your Family?

living trust 91024In 2017, NBA team owner Gail Miller made headlines when she announced that she was effectively no longer the owner of the Utah Jazz or the Vivint Smart Home Arena. These assets, she said, were being placed into a family trust, therefore raising interest in an estate planning tool previously known only to the very wealthy­–the dynasty trust.

Dynasty Trusts Explained

A dynasty trust (also called a “legacy trust”) is a special irrevocable trust that is intended to survive for many generations. The beneficiaries may receive limited payments from the trust, but asset ownership remains with the trust as long as the trust is in effect. In some states, a legal rule known as the Rule Against Perpetuities limits how long a dynasty trust can last.

The rule against perpetuities is a common law concept that still applies in most states. It generally provides that a trust may not last longer than 21 years after the death of the last potential beneficiary to die who was living at the time the trust was established.

California has enacted the Uniform Statutory Rule Against Perpetuities (USRAP), which provides that a trust may last at least 90 years before the common law rule is applied. In fact, this 90-year “wait and see” approach in USRAP now applies in most other states, too.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Wealthy families often use dynasty trusts as a way of keeping the money “in the family” for many generations. Rather than distribute assets over the life of a beneficiary, dynasty trusts consolidate the ownership and management of family wealth. The design of these trusts makes them exempt from estate taxes and the generation-skipping transfer tax, at least under current laws, so that wealth has a better ability to grow over time, rather than having as much as a 40-50% haircut at the death of each generation.

However, these benefits also come at the expense of other advantages. For example, since dynasty trusts are irrevocable and rely on a complex interplay of tax rules and state law; changes to them are much more difficult, or even potentially impossible as a practical matter, compared to non-dynasty trusts. Because changes are so difficult (or impossible), the design of a dynasty trust needs to anticipate any and all changes in family structure (e.g. a divorce, a child’s adoption) and assets (e.g. stock valuation, land appraisals), decades before any such changes occur.

Is a Dynasty Trust Right for Your Family?

In the past, these kinds of trusts were usually only used by very wealthy families whose fortunes would be subject to large estate taxes. However, dynasty trusts are powerful tools for “regular” families today who which to protect estates not only from taxes, but also from divorces, creditors or the ill-advised spending habits of beneficiaries. To learn more about dynasty trusts other estate planning strategies, call our office today.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

How to Share Family History and Heirlooms Through Your Estate Plan

legacy 91024One of the most important aspects of your estate plan is – or at least should be – protecting and passing on your legacy. And this coming holiday season is a great opportunity to reminisce about your family’s stories, values, and history because you’ll probably have your loved ones nearby.

While having those conversations is important, did you know you can also use a personal property memorandum in your estate plan to pass along special memories and stories about specific items that are meaningful to you and connect your family with the past?

What Is a Personal Property Memorandum?

California state law allows you to include a “personal property memorandum” in your estate plan. This supplemental document, specifically referenced in your will or living trust, lets you describe which personal property items you wish to leave to heirs, without having to call your lawyer and arrange for a meeting. You can handwrite or type this document, but it must be signed and dated to be valid. In conjunction with a will or living trust, a personal property memorandum can provide a roadmap for your executor regarding the distribution of specified items to your beneficiaries.

One important feature of a personal property memorandum is that you can change or update it whenever you like without the assistance of an attorney or notary. This freedom can be beneficial to you, because although you can also change your will as often as you like (and you absolutely should update it periodically to make sure it still reflects your wishes!), updating your will or living trust does require a visit to the estate planner’s office.

Another great reason to have a personal property memorandum in addition to your will and living trust is that your personal possessions likely change more frequently than other assets. For example, you probably add items to your closet more often than you add vehicles to your driveway.

What Can Be Included in a Personal Property Memorandum?

Not every asset can be distributed using a personal property memorandum! However, here are a few examples of assets that we commonly see people list in their personal property memorandum:

  • Furniture
  • Jewelry
  • Clothes
  • Books
  • Photographs and portraits
  • Important certificates (birth, marriage, death, citizenship/naturalization)
  • Collections (coins, stamps, dolls, figurines, etc.)
  • Other family heirlooms

Taking Your Personal Property Memorandum to the Next Level

We include a personal property memorandum as part of each client’s trust plan, but more importantly, I always suggest being a little creative with the process. Instead of just using the legal documents to pass on valuable heirlooms, I encourage each client to take a picture of every item of importance and write two paragraphs on the back of each picture.

The first paragraph is the story of why that item is meaningful. How, why, and when was it acquired? What is the item’s history? Why is the item so important to you? The second paragraph is the story of why you chose that particular person to receive the item. Why is continuing that item’s story on through them so important to you?

The picture makes it clear which items you’re talking about so there’s no confusion. The two paragraphs transform the gift from the realm estate planning documents and legalese into that of heart and soul, making the gift that much more meaningful to the recipient, and continuing the story of the item for future generations just as you ensure the story of your connection to the item lives on.

Giving It Away Now Versus Waiting Until Later

One option you always have is to give personal items to your loved ones while you’re still alive. You can share with them the accompanying stories as you’re making the gift. Indeed, this in-person exchange is often the surest way to know your wishes will be followed. If you do choose to give away possessions during your lifetime, you must be aware of any potential gift tax consequences that could arise for items of a larger value. But, generally any gift or series of gifts, within the calendar year, valued at less than $14,000 (up to $15,000 starting in 2018) can be given without concern.

Remember, verbal wishes alone are insufficient to gift personal property after you’ve passed away. So whether you decide to hand down your prized possessions now or later, know that one of the best gifts you can give your loved ones is the story behind a personal possession that connects it with you and your family forever. A good estate plan not only protects your family financially, it also protects and passes on the stories and heirlooms of your life’s legacy.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

5 Ways to Ensure Your Estate Plan Expresses Who You Are

children's inheritanceMost people know estate planning can help you pass along your material wealth, but what about your intangible wealth like your wisdom, values, and life experiences? Studies show that intangible wealth is valued by heirs even more highly than tangible wealth. It is also the wealth that lasts the longest, and the wealth that’s lost forever if care isn’t taken to preserve and pass it along.

Don’t get me wrong. The money’s important. But focusing on the money alone squanders an incredible opportunity during the estate planning process to account for the most important part of your wealth – the human capital you’ve accumulated during your life. With that in mind, here are five things which should be included in every comprehensive estate plan, but often aren’t:

  1. Your rich life story

You may think it’s all been said before, but this is the perfect time to schedule or conduct recording sessions about your own personal life narrative. These recordings will be treasured while you’re still here and long after you’re gone, too. It doesn’t have to be scripted or scary. You can just talk about particularly fond memories, knowing you’re creating a time capsule of sorts that will contain the uniqueness of your personality and the experiences that shaped you into the person you are today. And perhaps most importantly, this gives you the opportunity to share the valuable lessons you’ve learned from those experiences. Your family will be better for it.

  1. How you’d like to be honored

Estate planning involves considering some weighty decisions when it comes to long-term care, powers of attorney, and other situations that may arise should you become mentally incapacitated. Although these are not the sunniest of topics, it’s important to express to your family why you feel most aligned with the choices you’re making. This will ease the processes for your loved ones, should these things ever come to pass. And once you get this part of the conversation out of the way, there are better things to come.

  1. Your family tree

Your family might be curious about more than just your own life story. Take this time to go over your family tree and inform the younger members of your family about the details of your heritage. Getting a who’s who on paper and/or in a digital format is an excellent gift to your heirs, as they’ll be able to reference it and build upon it throughout their own lives.

  1. Significant heirlooms

Every family has heirlooms, and every piece tells a story. It’s common for estate plans to contain physical objects that matter dearly to their owners, such as furniture, garments, jewelry, hobby collections, and memorabilia. Keeping the story of the object alive is more important than transferring its monetary value to the next generation. So rather than just document who gets what, I encourage my clients to take a picture of each heirloom and then write about why that item means so much to them, and why they want to give it to the particular beneficiary they have chosen to receive it.

  1. Your core values

Your estate plan can be customized to include specific language (such as a family mission statement) that carries your values along with it while still leaving room for your beneficiaries to grow and explore on their own terms. Educational, incentive, and charitable trusts are other great tools available to you to express your values through your estate plan.

You know there’s much more to you than the material wealth you’ve accumulated during your life. As such, your estate plan should be about much more than just your financial worth. After all, what’s passed down from generation to generation amounts to something far greater than numbers on paper.

Don’t be afraid to insist that your estate plan includes a balanced representation of who you are and what you believe. And make sure you choose an attorney who isn’t only focused on your financial assets, but who wants to help weave your “whole wealth” into your trust and other critical documents so that the legacy you’ve built will mean something to your family for generations to come.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

 

 

Money Isn’t Everything in Estate Planning

How to Pass Your Stories and Values to the Future Generations

estate planning 91024Money may be the most talked asset within a person’s estate, but the riches of experience and wisdom can – and most of the time do – mean even more to family members down the line. Reinforcement of family traditions can be built into your estate plan alongside your wishes regarding your money, property, and belongings. After all, what really makes a family a family is its values and traditions — not the way its finances read on paper.

It’s an excellent idea to hold a family meeting in which you discuss the sorts of things that matter to you most. In addition to the value of sharing your wisdom, you can also make it more likely that your heirs will handle their inheritance wisely if they understand the motives behind your choices. This is just one of the many reasons to have a family discussion about your estate plan and your legacy.

How to tell your story through your estate plan

It’s a delight to get to hear your elders’ stories of their fondest memories and wildest adventures, as well as the struggles they overcame to get the family where it is today. This wisdom provides connection and meaning for a financial inheritance that otherwise might just be viewed as a windfall. So as part of your estate and legacy planning, I encourage you to record your own personal history. Here are a few ideas:

  • Audio files: With the broad range of audio formats available today, you can record in the way that’s easiest for you – anything from a handheld cassette recorder to the Voice Memos app on your iPhone. There are some easy-to-use digitizing services that can compile your stories into audio files to make available to your family and descendants.
  • Video files: The same goes for home movies and other video recordings. Older film formats can be easily digitized and organized along with the videos from your phone. Today’s technology also makes it easier than ever to add narration (and context) to a video, making the story all the richer.
  • Photo albums: Many families have prized photo collections that catalog generations. It’s a tragedy when something like this is lost in a fire or misplaced in a move. Creating a digital database is a gift to your family in more ways than one: Not only will they have access to these memories at any time, they can also feel secure knowing that these family treasures won’t be lost anytime soon and that multiple copies can be made for the different branches of the family.
  • Letters and other writings: If you enjoy writing, you can also include handwritten or typed letters or stories to your family members in your legacy plan to be received and read at the time of your choosing. You can also include past letters and postcards that might be tucked away in the attic. It’s not only a personal delight to relive the memories of the past by reviewing your old letters and postcards, but it’s also a great way for younger generations to get to know and sincerely appreciate your life journey and legacy.

Your financial assets are important. Protecting and planning to pass those assets is a key part of any estate plan. But focusing only on those types of assets leaves a hole for your loved ones and does a disservice to the biggest part of your wealth. Your estate plan becomes exponentially more valuable when it incorporates and showcases your memories, history, and values in a long-lasting way that truly benefits your heirs. And that is really what estate planning should be all about.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

 

 

Tools You Can Use to Leave Words of Wisdom to the Next Generation

legacy 91024You come into the world a blank slate, and as you grow, you gain wisdom. You’ve planned your estate to leave physical assets to beneficiaries, but what about leaving them something just as important but less tangible: the hard-won wisdom you’ve accumulated over your life. Along with the physical assets, how about empowering your family and friends to learn from your mistakes, and profit from your successes?

Living (and Other) Trusts

If you’re a regular reader of my column, you already know a properly-funded living trust avoids probate. But what if you have concerns about some of your beneficiaries’ ability to handle a windfall? Living trusts can be structured to protect beneficiaries from themselves and others. For example, incentivizing the beneficiary by only paying out money when he or she meets certain conditions, such as finishing college or staying clean and sober, can help ensure your gift enhances, rather than impedes, a successful and fulfilling life. Incentives combined with a personal statement explaining why you’ve put conditions on the beneficiary’s inheritance offers wisdom, guidance, and a demonstration of love to the next generation.

 Legacy Videos

You can (and should!) create a personal video. You may have seen or heard of a videotaped “reading of the will”. That’s not what I’m talking about. One of the most powerful gifts you can leave your loved ones is a video describing your stories, experiences, values, and wisdom. I call this a legacy video and we include it a part of every living trust package we do for clients. It’s that important. And if you already have a family video collection, consider making a new video including favorite snippets and commenting on the earlier days. Time gives you perspective and appreciation, and those gifts are priceless. The memories and meaning that these videos have will be memorialized for generations to come.

 The Old-Fashioned Way

Scrapbooking is a time-honored pastime that’s recently experienced a renaissance. Pass on journals, photos, newspaper clippings and other ephemera via scrapbooks or albums. You can leave specially constructed letters inside for your family and loved ones. While only one family member can have the physical scrapbook at any one time, digital scrapbooking tools are fast-evolving and now allow you to create either a digital version or multiple print copies so that all your loved ones can share your life and thoughts.

Leave a History, Not Just Items

When you’re bequeathing antiques, art, jewelry and the like, leave the beneficiary a history of the piece and why it was important to you. If it’s a family heirloom, write down whom it has passed to, from generation to generation. It’s possible the family ties outweigh the actual value of the item. Sharing these stories will make a family heirloom cherished even more.

Regardless of how you’re leaving your memories and the meaning behind them to the next generation, you want to make sure that your family avoids unnecessary hassle and expense. That all starts with a living trust. But estate planning can – and should – be so much more than just a set of documents. Remember, the best plans bequeath not just financial assets, but the troves of wisdom and personal wealth you’ve accumulated, too.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024