August is What Will Be Your Legacy Month. If you knew this, you have an unusual knowledge of obscure celebrations.
But even if you weren’t aware of this “month,” you can see that the idea behind it — leaving a legacy — is an important one. What should you do to help ensure you’ll leave the type of legacy you desire?
To begin with, identify those people whom you’d like to directly benefit from your legacy. What can you leave behind to your children, grandchildren, other family members or even close friends? Then think about those charitable organizations you support — can you leave something behind to them?
Once you have decided what your legacy should look like, you can take steps to implement your ideas. Here are a few suggestions:
• Draw up your will. A will is probably the most-essential legacy-related document. Essentially, you need a will to ensure that your assets and personal belongings will be distributed according to your wishes. If you die intestate (without a will), your belongings will be distributed to your “heirs” as defined by state laws — and these distributions may not be at all what you had in mind.
• Consider a living trust. Depending on your situation, you may need to go further than a will when creating the estate plans that help define your legacy. For example, you might want to create a living trust, which can allow your assets to go directly to your heirs, avoiding the public, time-consuming and potentially expensive process of probate. A living trust offers other benefits, too, so you may want to consult with a legal professional to learn more about this estate-planning tool.
• Plan for your charitable gifts. To leave the legacy you have envisioned, you might want to do more than provide your loved ones with needed financial resources — you may also want to provide lasting support to those charitable or educational organizations whose work you admire. Toward this end, you might want to consult with your tax and legal advisers about charitable gifting strategies that can provide tax benefits, both now and in the future.
• Give your family the power to act on your behalf. Like everyone else, you want to be in charge of your own destiny. Unfortunately, however, you may someday become mentally or physically incapacitated for a while. If this were to happen, you’ll want your family to be able to act on your behalf with regard to financial and health-care decisions. To grant your loved ones this power, you may want to create a power of attorney and a health-care directive.
• Communicate your wishes. You need to communicate to your loved ones the actions you have taken regarding your will, living trust and other estate-planning documents. By explaining your wishes in advance, you may be able to help your family members avoid disputes and unpleasant surprises — and that lack of “drama” also can be a key part of your legacy.
What Will Be Your Legacy Month will come and go. But by definition, your legacy will last beyond your lifetime — so make it a good one.
This article was written by Edward Jones and provided by Evans, your local Edward Jones financial adviser.