• 2-Minute Article
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  • Oct 03, 2017

How to Start the Legacy Planning Talk with Your Family

Discussing your estate plan may be difficult, but the conversation can be simple. Let us help.

Your legacy is important. We believe creating a legacy plan plays an important role in protecting your family and accomplishing your goals. But just as important as making a formal plan is sharing those plans with a financial advisor and loved ones so they can better understand your wishes. A financial advisor can help you identify things you may not have considered. And having a conversation with your family now can prevent confusion and make sure everyone’s on the same page for the future.

Ideally, legacy planning will be an ongoing dialogue. To help you get started, here are five essential topics to cover when you have the first conversation.

Sharing the details of your estate plan will help your family feel confident they can make the transition once they become responsible for enacting your legacy.

Discuss Your Assets and Liabilities

Start by sharing a complete picture of your assets — including cash, investments, and real estate — as well as debts. That way, everyone involved will understand the scope of your estate and potential actions they will have to take when they inherit it. 

For example, is there property that will need to be sold? Is there a trust that will require contact with a third-party trustee? Is there a business to be transitioned?

Share the Location of Your Important Documents

Prior to your conversation, assemble legacy planning documents, such as your will, living will, power of attorney, trust documents, and even stock certificates. Put them in an accessible location and tell your family where they can find them.

Identify Leadership Roles

Explain to loved ones their responsibilities in making sure your legacy plan is carried out per your wishes. Discuss which family members will take on the roles of power of attorney, health care proxy, and executor.

Share Your Intentions

Although directions will be laid out in your will, take this opportunity to explain the thinking that went into your legacy plan. Providing clear reasoning behind specific decisions, such as philanthropic gifts and guardianship of children, can help others avoid questions and uncertainty after your death. It can also help you pass on family values, such as a commitment to charitable giving. 

Explain Your Protection Plan

Describe the measures you’ve taken to help protect your legacy. For example, you may have life insurance policies with cash value that can be tapped into in case you need expensive medical care, or policies that provide immediate cash upon your death to pay estate taxes or debts. Additionally, you may have annuities that will provide steady income to a spouse or others after your death. 

Sharing the details of your legacy plan will help your family feel confident they can make the transition once they become responsible for enacting your legacy. Review your legacy plan with your financial advisor and attorney every few years or as live events happen to discuss necessary changes or updates.