The estate of your financial affairs
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.