A recently read a great blog post by my colleague and Oregon estate planning lawyer, Candice Aiston. I am re-posting it hear for my readers, with Ms. Aiston’s permission. Please take the time to read it, as it could make a HUGE difference in your families future. Make it a point to give these important gifts in 2011. You never know what could happen to you, and delaying these gifts could be disaster.
The end of the year is a time when I think a lot about the state of my life, family, and career. I like to reflect on how the year went, whether goals were accomplished, what my goals are for the coming year, and how those goals match up with my values. I try to think about what my overall purpose is and realign with that. It is so easy to get caught up in the small details in life, that sometimes the big picture is lost. I like to reassess each year and make sure I am always keeping my eye on what is important.
This year as I reflect, I find that my life, family, and career goals are really very interwined. My family goal is to be a loving and responsible parent, and it turns out that my career goal is to help loving and responsible parents as well. My life’s work happens to be helping loving parents to create estate plans that protect their families if something tragic happens. Estate Planning is part of being a loving and responsible parent, but it is just one piece of that bigger goal.
If you are reading this, you probably feel similarly to the way that I do about parenting. It is serious business, and it is our responsibility to provide the best care possible for our kids and to make sure they are protected and that they have every opportunity to succeed in life. If we can toast to that, I want to share with you 5 Priceless Presents that you should give to your family. If you have not given these to your family yet, there is no time like the New Year to get started. Make it a resolution, a Responsible Parent’s Manifesto, if you want to call it that.
1. A Comprehensive Estate Plan
A Comprehensive Estate Plan is the first thing that any parent needs to get in place. Why is this first? Because you can have all of the things listed below, but put your family through hell trying to access it and pay all of the fees and taxes associated with your death or incapacity if something happens to you. Without meeting with an attorney and discussing your particular situation, you have no idea what type of situation your family faces if something happens. You need a plan that dictates the care of your kids (both short and long-term) and the handling of your assets in a way that saves your family the most time, money, and heartbreak. So, if you are a parent without an estate plan, this is your first step. Call an estate planning attorney today.
2. Life Insurance
Life insurance is an essential part of most parents’ estate plans. Most parents do not have enough in savings or assets to allow their families to live a similar lifestyle if a parent died. Life insurance replaces lost income and it can be used to pay for childcare. If you do not have life insurance, make it a priority in 2011 to get insured. The longer you wait, the more difficult and expensive getting life insurance will be. Keep in mind that life insurance makes your estate worth more, so you should consult your estate planning attorney before buying it.
3. An Emergency Savings Account
Every parent should have an emergency savings account. This economy has taught us that little is certain in life. It is not certain that you will have your job next month. It is not certain that your business will be around next month. It is not certain that your health will be good next month. It is extremely important to plan for a situation where you may not have income for 6-12 months. Otherwise, you could lose everything you have worked so hard to gain. People who lose their jobs and do not have emergency savings often have to cash in retirement accounts with severe penalties and have their homes foreclosed upon. It really can pay to sacrifice in the short-term to have that security long-term.
4. A Plan for Retirement
Retirement takes decades to plan for, and many parents do not know what they are doing when it comes to saving for it. Seeing an experienced financial advisor is such a good idea when it comes to retirement. Retirement is the biggest event for which you will ever plan. An advisor can project what you should be putting aside based on your income, expenses, projected age of retirement, and rate of inflation. They can also describe to you the various types of accounts and how each type can benefit you. They all involve different tax rules and have different rules for distribution. Your company’s retirement plan or pension may not be enough to support you during retirement.
5. A Plan for College
You would think that planning for college would be at the top of this list if you are a loving parent, right? Wrong. You first take the steps to protect your family from the worst situations, then you plan for the time when you can no longer work, and then you plan for college. The reason for this is that if there is no college fund, your child can apply for loans and grants and get a job during college. It is not ideal, but it is a heck of a lot more ideal than your grown child having to support you in your old age because you do not have the means to support yourself. It is a lot more ideal than your child flunking out of high school because when dad died without life insurance, mom had to get two jobs to make ends meet and there was no one to make sure the child was doing what he was supposed to be doing. But once you have taken care of the other things, providing a college education for your child can help your family for generations. Without having to pay back student loans, your child can start saving, planning, and living prosperously a lot earlier on than you were able to do so.