The es­tate of your fi­nan­cial af­fairs

The News-Times (Sunday) - - More Opinion - DOONESBURY Nancy Tartaglia is di­rec­tor of Gift Plan­ning & Phi­lan­thropic Ser­vices, at Fair­field County’s Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion.

In Au­gust, leg­endary singer Aretha Franklin died af­ter a long bat­tle with can­cer. Al­though her mu­si­cal legacy is un­ques­tioned, her fi­nan­cial legacy is up in the air. Ms. Franklin joined a sur­pris­ingly long list of celebri­ties, in­clud­ing Prince, Amy Wine­house, Kurt Cobain, John Den­ver and Jimi Hen­drix, who died with­out a will.

It turns out, how­ever, that you don’t have to be fa­mous to ig­nore the sub­ject of es­tate plan­ning.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2017 sur­vey from Car­ing.com, only four in 10 Amer­i­can adults have a will or liv­ing trust. The sur­vey found that while adults age 72 or older are best pre­pared, with 81 per­cent hav­ing fi­nal­ized their plans, more than 40 per­cent of baby boomers ages 53 to 71 have not com­pleted their es­tate plan­ning doc­u­ments. The num­bers get worse from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion, with 64 per­cent of Gen­er­a­tion Xers (ages 37-52) and 78 per­cent of mil­len­ni­als (ages 18-36) with­out any end-of-life fi­nan­cial plan in place. Only 36 per­cent of adults with chil­dren un­der age 18 have put plans in place to pro­tect and pro­vide for their fam­ily af­ter death.

While it may be tempt­ing to avoid the topic, es­tate plan­ning is vi­tal to en­sure your in­ten­tions will be car­ried out af­ter your death, from pro­vid­ing for loved ones to sup­port­ing non­profit causes close to your heart.

As we mark Na­tional Es­tate Plan­ning Aware­ness Week (Oct. 15-21), adopted by Con­gress in 2008, it’s a good time to ex­plore es­tate plan­ning, why it is such a vi­tal com­po­nent of fi­nan­cial well­ness, and how it can help you make a dif­fer­ence for your com­mu­nity for gen­er­a­tions.

Es­tate plan­ning en­com­passes the con­ser­va­tion and trans­fer of an in­di­vid­ual’s wealth through the cre­ation and main­te­nance of an “es­tate plan,” says the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Es­tate Plan­ners and Coun­cils. Es­tate plan­ning en­cour­ages timely de­ci­sions about the method of hold­ing ti­tle to cer­tain as­sets, the des­ig­na­tion of ben­e­fi­cia­ries (in­clud­ing spouses, chil­dren or other fam­ily mem­bers, friends and non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions), and the pos­si­ble life­time trans­fer of as­sets.

The pur­pose of es­tate plan­ning is to de­velop a strat­egy that will main­tain the fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity of in­di­vid­u­als through their life­time and en­sure the in­tended trans­fer of their prop­erty and as­sets at death, while tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the unique cir­cum­stances of the fam­ily and the po­ten­tial costs of dif­fer­ent meth­ods.

Many Amer­i­cans are un­aware that lack of es­tate plan­ning may cause their as­sets to be dis­posed of af­ter their death to un­in­tended par­ties by de­fault through the com­plex process of pro­bate.

As you con­sider steps you’ll take to meet your fi­nan­cial and phi­lan­thropic goals dur­ing your life­time and beyond, es­tate plan­ning can be a pow­er­ful way to sup­port your fam­ily as well as sus- tain your fa­vorite non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions in per­pe­tu­ity.

With proper plan­ning, you can have the sat­is­fac­tion of sup­port­ing causes that are im­por­tant to you, while also se­cur­ing in­come and es­tate tax sav­ings and pro­vid­ing ben­e­fits to your fam­ily. There are many op­tions to ex­plore such as mak­ing a be­quest of cash or non-cash as­sets (e.g. stocks, bonds, mu­tual funds, real es­tate, per­sonal prop­erty, busi­ness in­ter­ests); es­tab­lish­ing a char­i­ta­ble trust; or nam­ing your fa­vorite char­ity as a ben­e­fi­ciary of an in­sur­ance pol­icy or re­tire­ment plan.

An ex­pe­ri­enced team of es­tate plan­ning pro­fes­sion­als can help. It may in­clude, but is not lim­ited to, an at­tor­ney, ac­coun­tant, trust of­fi­cer, and other fi­nan­cial plan­ners. It’s im­por­tant to con­sult with a pro­fes­sional ad­viser to help de­velop a plan that’s cus­tom­ized to your per­sonal cir­cum­stances, fi­nan­cial goals and phi­lan­thropic in­ter­ests. Some char­i­ta­ble gifts can pro­vide con­sid­er­able tax ad­van­tages dur­ing your life­time, while also re­duc­ing the tax im­pli­ca­tions for your heirs.

As the re­gion’s ex­pert phi­lan­thropic hub, Fair­field County’s Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion (FCCF) is sup­ported by vol­un­teer Pro­fes­sional Ad­vi­sor Coun­cils, com­prised of the county’s most re­spected fi­nan­cial and es­tate plan­ning prac­ti­tion­ers who are com­mit­ted to help­ing their clients achieve phi­lan­thropic goals. Those who en­trust FCCF to stew­ard their legacy are rec­og­nized in its Fu­ture So­ci­ety: a vi­sion­ary group of like-minded phi­lan­thropists who are sow­ing the seeds for a brighter fu­ture where every in­di­vid­ual has an op­por­tu­nity to thrive.

In Fair­field County, a re­gion chal­lenged with the widest eco­nomic and aca­demic achieve­ment dis­par­i­ties in the coun­try, a more eq­ui­table, stronger and sus­tain­able fu­ture re­lies on the con­tin­ued part­ner­ship be­tween non­prof­its, so­cial ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions, gov­ern­ment, busi­nesses, and the undy­ing sup­port of com­mu­nity-minded cit­i­zens.

Es­tate plan­ning isn’t only for the rich and fa­mous. Whether your nest egg is large or small, there are an ar­ray of op­tions for pro­tect­ing your fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests, pro­vid­ing for your fam­ily, and mak­ing an en­dur­ing dif­fer­ence in your com­mu­nity, while adding deep mean­ing to your life.

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