Planning Your Legacy

10 Questions to Ask When Planning for the Future

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What have you done to ensure that your future is secure? And not only yours, but the future of those people and things you have worked so hard for in your life: children, grandchildren, parents, property, retirement plans, businesses, etc.

The smartest way to protect yourself, your loved ones and your assets is to put together what is known as an “estate plan.” But how do you get started? The following questions can help you start thinking about what parts of your life you might need to plan for.

Question 1: If I have minor children, do I know who I want to take care of them if something happens to me?

If you do not have official legal documents, like a will, in place that dictate what happens if both parents die before your children turn 18, the courts get to decide based on state laws.

Question 2: Do I want life-sustaining treatment or to be on life support?

If you are incapable of making medical decisions because you are unconscious or incapacitated, you need to be able to trust that your wishes will be carried out. These situations can be tense and emotional for your loved ones, so by having a legal document in place such as a living will you are taking those stressful decisions out of their hands.

Question 3: Who will make health care decisions for me if I am unable?

You never know when something may happen that leaves you incapable of making decisions – or communicating them – about medical situations. A document known as a power of attorney names someone who can act on your behalf for medical affairs.

Question 4: Who will handle my financial affairs if I become disabled or incapacitated?

This isn’t just for situations when you are seriously sick – what would happen if you are traveling out of the country and can’t access your bank accounts?

Question 5: What is the value of my estate, including all property, assets and financial accounts I have?

Although you might think an estate refers only to property, when talking about it in terms of taxes and planning, an estate includes not only property but also your assets such as cars, bank accounts, life insurance policies, retirement plan assets, businesses, stocks and personal items.

Question 6: Who will inherit all of my assets when I die?

Without a will or trust in place, the laws of the state where you reside dictate who receives assets.

Question 7: Do I want certain personal property to go to certain people?

You might want your spouse and children to receive everything, but you also might want control over how the assets are divided between them – or maybe you prefer them to go to other loved ones.

Question 8: Do I have charitable organizations I want to receive money or assets upon my death?

If so, you would want to include this in a will or trust – or you could designate them beneficiary of a financial account.

Question 9: Do I have enough life insurance to cover my final needs?

You want to purchase a big enough life insurance policy to cover funeral expenses, debts and future needs of your family. The National Funeral Directors Association says that the national median cost of a funeral is more than $7,000 — so factor that in when deciding what life insurance policy you choose.

Question 10: Are my family members aware of my final needs, requests and funeral plans?

Talking to your loved ones about your plans now may feel uncomfortable, but it will ensure that everyone is on the same page when the time comes. Having a conversation will also make the process less stressful for them.

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