What are the most important things to talk about at this time of year?
I recently sat down with Robert Temmerman, Jr. (or Dad as I call him), a specialist with 30 years of experience in estate planning, to find out what he deems as most important for year-end planning.
What he told me is that this may be the best time to have some important discussions with loved ones. These important — and possibly uncomfortable — conversations are the best gift that you can give to your family (aside from that new iPad they have been wanting).
Financial advisors looking to provide guidance in all aspects of their clients’ lives may want to bring up these reminders:
- Reassure your family that your estate plan is current.
Assuming you have recently reviewed your will, trust, power of attorney and advanced directive with your attorney, let your family members know that it is up to date. And be sure to let your nominated executor/trustee know where your estate planning documents are located.
- Inform your family members about your digital assets.
If you get your financial statements online, your designated agent/executor should be able to access your accounts to pay bills and manage your finances if you are unable to do so. Include the passwords for your computer and the homepage for each financial institution in a letter to your agent/executor to be delivered when necessary. Keep this letter in a secure place as you would other documents containing sensitive information. Be sure to keep track of your passwords for things such as:
- Social media
- Digital music/Movies/Books
3. If children are mature enough, consider talking with them about your plan
A candid discussion with all members of your family can serve to avoid future conflicts.
4. Verify — and if necessary update — beneficiary designations
Many accounts, especially retirement plans, pass to beneficiary designations that are on file with the financial institution, regardless of whether the will or estate plan states a different beneficiary. (Supreme Court Favors Ex-Wife Over Widow in Battle for Life Insurance Proceeds).
It is important to verify designated beneficiaries and update the beneficiary designation whenever appropriate. Today, it is easy to download a beneficiary designation form from most institutions. Put your family at ease knowing you have reviewed and updated the beneficiary designations on all of your retirement accounts, annuities and life insurance.
5. Discuss end of life care options
Honest and open discussions with family members during the holidays help bond a family together. Although it is never a pleasant topic of discussion, sharing one’s heartfelt desires is important for you and for your family. No one wants their passing to be a burden on their loved ones and having these conversations can help ensure your wishes are honored.
The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal advice. Please consult with a legal professional for additional information.
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