When you think about the legacy you’ll leave, what comes to mind? When you’re no longer on this earth, what kind of impact will you have on your Family? Community?
Perhaps it’s security for your family or a monetary contribution to your community. It could also be a tribute to the arts or a charitable organization. Don’t wait until you pass on to start the process of building your legacy. Begin now to plan and implement your wishes.
Start Your Legacy Today!
Ensure your legacy lives on through estate planning with a trusted team of estate planning attorneys, financial advisors and insurance agents. Estate planning allows you to make informed decisions about what you’ll leave behind when you’re gone. But your assets only make up part of the equation. A true legacy allows a part of you to live on through the careful planning you do for the benefit of your loved ones.
Additionally, donating time and talents to a favorite organization makes up a part of your legacy as well. Estate planning helps you focus on what matters most to you. It enables you to begin to build your legacy while you are still living.
Imagining Your Legacy
Here are some things to consider when it comes to your legacy. Take some time to pause and reflect on what matters to you, what you hope to leave behind, and how you can put your legacy into action today.
When your legacy becomes your vision, you make smarter decisions about your career, your investments, your health, and other important aspects of your life. Your focus extends to the bigger picture, the future and your role in it.
Your legacy can serve as an inspiration and example for others. It may provide opportunities for others to thrive. If you plan wisely and give generously, your children and beneficiaries will likely follow. Thus, you influence your posterity for generations even after your gone. And your example can have a positive and impactful influence on others. This perpetuates your legacy even before you die.
Plan Ahead for Your Legacy
If you plan your legacy now, you can start to see the benefits of your planning come alive. You witness the positive influence careful planning can have on others. Donations that you make now begin to benefit others immediately, and you witness the impact on their lives. This leads to gratification and connections between your hard work and how it benefits others. This is another way to enjoy the now of your legacy.
Include Charitable Giving in Your Legacy
Individuals in 2017 provided $281.86 billion in charitable giving. This amounted to nearly 3/4 of the charitable giving for that year. You can help continue this kind of trend in 2020 by making intelligent and strategic contributions to the causes you care about most. Donor Advised Funds provide a charitable giving opportunity for many people.
Giving to charities can be one of the most important financial choices you will make during your life. You may choose to contribute to your alma mater, the local church, or to a charitable organization or foundation.
Charitable giving may operate as a strategy to minimize federal estate and gift taxes. For many, it makes up a portion of their balanced estate plan. This is true even though the estate tax currently sits at $11.58M. With fluctuations in politics and the tax code, the estate tax could potentially be a factor for a lot of people again.
Lifetime gifts to charities may make you eligible for an income tax deduction. Eligibility for these deductions is limited to a percentage of your adjusted gross income. And there’s another yearly limit for gifts of appreciated securities or property. As you can see, due to the complexity of a charitable giving plan, it’s best to get qualified advice before making donations.
Call Us Today
With careful planning and strategy, you can create a legacy that will inspire your children and grandchildren. You can make contributions to the causes you want to support. This can also complement your estate and tax plans. We are here to be your trusted partners in this process. Please call Durfee Law Group today at 480.324.8000 to get started.
Be a Peacemaker
A will or trust contest can wreak havoc on families without the proper plan in place. The conflict can result in possible irreparable resentment and loss of familial communication between family members who otherwise would not have had those kinds of issues. And for those harboring old rivalries and disputes, the administration of an estate can trigger animosity and cause harsh feelings to resurface during the trying time that occurs after the death of a loved one, especially a parent. But careful estate planning can help you substantially reduce the risk, or even avoid this problem entirely.
Let’s take a look at a few of the ways you can build your estate plan to minimize family conflicts after you’re gone:
Have a current estate plan:
An up-to-date estate plan can help you preserve family unity after death or in the event of incapacity. Even if you have put an estate plan in place in recent years, estate planning is an ongoing process and needs attention at regular intervals. An out-of-date plan can become misaligned with your goals, new laws, and policies, rendering it less effective and more likely to generate conflict (the last thing you want). An estate plan that clearly sets forth your wishes in accordance with current law is going to provide your beneficiaries, even the ornery ones, with a vehicle that minimizes the potential for conflict.
Choose people you can trust:
You can give certainty to your family and make your wishes easier to carry out by selecting the right people as your key players in carrying out your estate plan. Make sure you’ve given careful consideration in choosing those who will carry out your estate plan. A few of the key individuals you’ll have to select:
Executor or personal representative – This person is appointed in your will to manage your probate estate if one is needed. In many cases, you may select the same person as your successor trustee. However, if you don’t, remember that your executor must work closely with your successor trustee to ensure that everything is handled smoothly and in a timely fashion.
Health care proxy – This person is authorized to communicate with your medical providers and make medical decisions if you are unable to do so.
Financial agent – This person is authorized to make financial decisions on your behalf. They will likely need to work closely with your successor trustee, or you may designate the same person to serve in both roles.
Share your wisdom:
Become a legend. By sharing your stories and wisdom (through ethical wills, intent letters, personal stories, videos, etc.) you can help your family understand the legacy you want to leave so that the wealth you’re leaving doesn’t become a distraction or point of contention, and your family and friends are more able to focus on the things that matter most.
Avoid doing it yourself if you can:
While it might be tempting to cut corners and take your estate plan into your own hands, taking a do-it-yourself approach to your estate planning documents is not a good idea. This sets the stage for potentially inadequate planning, which increases the likelihood of will or trust contests (this means unnecessary fighting among family members) and will likely mean your estate isn’t distributed how you’d like it to be in the end. Let your estate planning attorney apply expertise and do the heavy lifting. We’re always here to help.
Make sure your estate plan is clear and concise:
Are you planning on giving more of your total assets to one child than the others? Or are there other ways in which your estate planning goals may upset some of your beneficiaries (or those who aren’t beneficiaries)? This isn’t easy, but if you foresee hurt feelings, consider being as clear as possible about your wealth distribution plans with those individuals. This will limit the potential for confusion and disagreement down the road. It may or may not make sense to explain this to your family. But, it’s always incredibly important to let us know the reasons so we can develop a rock-solid legal strategy for your goals. One method that some people us is to write a letter of intent explaining the “why” behind the distributions they made.
Consider discretionary trusts:
If you have a child or other potential beneficiary who struggles with addiction, mental health problems, or other conditions that could hinder their ability to use their inheritance in a healthy way, you might want to consider a discretionary trust or an irrevocable trust. With this type of trust, you can control the disbursements based on your beneficiary meeting certain requirements, such as attending a treatment program or enrolling in higher education. In this way, you are able to customize your estate planning and distributions to fit the needs and circumstances of your family and friends.
Will or trust contests can tear a family apart, and can also be time-consuming, costly, and embarrassing for the family that remains. Litigation is almost never the best solution. However, if someone who feels cheated by your estate plan can convince the court that your will or trust is invalid, it can open up a huge can of worms and the people that you intended to inherit from you may not end up being the same people who actually do.
The most common reasons a family member may use to say your estate plan is invalid are:
1) You or Witnesses didn’t sign the will
2) you didn’t have the capacity to make the estate planning decisions you made
3) the documents were fraudulent, or
4) Others pressured or influenced you to sign documents.
Let Durfee Law Group help you avoid these kinds of pitfalls that can turn your legacy into a nightmare. We’re here to guide you every step of the way through creating and maintaining an estate plan that meets the criteria for your vision of your legacy. Give us a call today at 480.324.8000 to make sure your plan is current and includes all the necessary provisions to keep a contest from occurring in the future, and make your legacy a reality.