Most often, we think of Legacy Planning as a plan put in place for when you pass away or if you pass away unexpectedly. In our experience however, your Legacy plan goes into effect in other situations as well such as a cognitive decline. While it can be a difficult exercise to go through, planning for your Legacy can provide you a sense of peace for the what if and when. Here are a few things to consider planning for now regardless of how young and healthy you may be. As with any legal issue we recommend you consult an attorney or other legal professional with your plan once you are ready to put it in place.
As one of the most basic forms of legacy planning, you may be saying "of course!" but it might surprise you how many people do not have a will. According to LegalZoom.com it's estimated that 50-60% of Americans have no will! Your will is your opportunity to put in writing how you would like your assets left to your estate distributed at your death. An important part of planning for your will is making sure your Financial Professional and your Attorney coordinate to make sure that any bequests of funds have a source. This would hopefully prevent you from wishing to leave someone funds in your will but having no funds to give them upon your death.
Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy & Living Will
These three documents cover you while you're still alive but are not able to make decisions. These documents provide a person or persons the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf and handle your affairs while you are incapacitated either temporarily or permanently. This type of legacy planning might be the most powerful in our opinion because it can be a difficult and emotional process for your appointed representative if they are not certain of what your exact wishes are. You'll want to meet with an attorney to establish these documents and additionally, you will want to sit down with your appointed representative to let them know what your wishes truly are and update them of any changes along the way. That way, if you start to make decisions while in a compromised state they can help you keep to the original plan you made.
You're never too young to seek guidance on your estate plan. While you might think estate planning is simply something you do to prepare for death, it's quite the opposite! Basic estate planning helps you live your life with the knowledge that if the What If happens your wishes will be known.
Our advice - start small. Work with an attorney to set up your will, power of attorney and health care proxy and any other documents you may need. These documents can be modified later on as your life changes but help you prepare for the what if, now.