When people think of retirement, their first concern is usually money. And while that’s a valid focus, there are other things to consider when it comes to retiring. Unfortunately, the number one thing people need to consider besides money when it comes to retirement is not a happy thought: it’s their legacy and what will happen to their loved ones after they’ve passed.
Like all financial decisions, the best place to start is with a plan. Perhaps you want to be sure that in the event of your passing, your spouse is secure in the same lifestyle you’re enjoying together now or that your other loved ones—children and grandchildren—will have the opportunities in life that money can provide. Or you may wish to accomplish something else with your money, such as giving it to charity or a school. Regardless of your ultimate goal, you need to start with the right documents. If you don’t put together a will or the other estate-planning documents that establish your wishes legally, the people who will likely determine what happens to your money will be your state government or the courts. Estate planning is also a way to preserve wealth and cash flow from avoidable taxation.
Unfortunately, there are some real horror stories out there about people who should have been savvy enough to have planned adequately for their estates but failed to do so. When the heir to the Wrigley chewing gum fortune died some years ago, his estate planning was so deficient that his estate paid tens of millions of dollars to the government. The family had owned the Chicago Cubs for generations, but because of this planning failure, they had to sell the team to pay their tax bills. Experts who reviewed their estate documents subsequently said that this catastrophe was completely avoidable.
The first document you want in an adequate estate plan is a will. A properly written will can accomplish a few basic wishes for you. With this document, you’ll also determine how your estate will be distributed. A will is the primary estate instrument, but there are other documents you should have in order as well, depending on your circumstances. You might want to look into an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT), which can help you save on estate taxes. It’s also a good idea to have a medical care directive or a living will. This will direct your medical care when you are unable to make those decisions. Other documents you might want to consider include a limited power of attorney or a durable power of attorney. These documents allow trusted people you select to make decisions for you if you are unable to do so for yourself. Various types of trusts can also be established during your lifetime or upon your passing that can fulfill your intentions and ensure that the government receives the least amount of taxes possible. If you don’t have these crucial documents in place, then the government could step in and decide what is best for you or your loved ones and who gets your hard-earned money — just like the Wrigley heir.
For more tips on how to plan for retirement beyond money, visit tswealth.com.