In the scope of retirement planning, legacy goals are the things that we want to occur after our death. Legacy goals can be very difficult to map out and sometimes impossible to quantify. As financial planners we would love every retiree to tell us his or her date of death and the dollar amount that they want to leave behind, but that just isn’t very realistic.
I can generally classify our clients into three groups when talking about what they want to leave behind:
- The smallest group includes clients who want a certain amount left for their children or other family members. Maybe they have two daughters and they want to give them $500,000.
- A larger portion is made up of clients who want their last check to bounce. They may not have children, or their children are very successful or they simply might view their job as done after educating and raising their children. Note that sometimes this mindset changes after grandchildren are born.
- By far the largest group includes clients who want to leave something behind, but aren’t quite sure what.
I’m not particularly good at helping people decipher their legacy goals. So I asked my estate attorney Erin Patterson to share her thoughts about this issue.
Erin is a CPA and an attorney at Todd Stewart Law, P.A. in Charlotte. She suggests that you start by thinking about your core values and vision of the future. Some examples might include family, faith, travel, adventure, wisdom, integrity, leadership or generosity. Once you decide what the most important things are to you and your partner, start thinking about how you might incorporate these values into giving during your life and after your death. For example, if education is at the top of your list, then start thinking about how to convey the importance of that value to your heirs today so that it lives on after you are gone. We encourage our clients to give while they are alive if they can. It has more impact on the lives of your heirs today and you get to enjoy the process of giving.
This is the type of mindset that helps a family build an estate plan. Maybe you end up with four or five estate goals that affect children, grandkids and charities. I think many individuals feel relieved when there is a plan in place. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with a plan of letting your money grow, spending sensibly and giving the kids what’s left, which is the most common estate plan. And that’s reasonable as long as your wills, power of attorney and healthcare directives are current. However, keep in mind that these are “living” documents. You need to review and update them typically every three years or whenever circumstances change.
We welcome the opportunity to learn more about your legacy goals. We hold family meetings with our clients, their families and their estate attorneys and find that having a family meeting with your advisor helps relieve anxiety and provide comfort when talking about the inevitable, so please know that you have this option.
Bottom Line: Most of our clients don’t like discussing death. Don’t let that stop you from having a plan, keeping the plan updated and sharing that plan with your advisor and your heirs.
From the desk of Kris CarrollRetirement Income, Retirement Planning