What happens ‘If you died tomorrow…?’

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The untimely deaths of Bernie Mac (age 50), Issac Hayes (age 65) and Ohio Cong. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (age 58) are poignant examples of the fragility of our existence in the world. Our undefined timeline on earth will by definition leave our mission incom

The untimely deaths of Bernie Mac (age 50), Issac Hayes (age 65) and Ohio Cong. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (age 58) are poignant examples of the fragility of our existence in the world. Our undefined timeline on earth will by definition leave our mission incomplete, our relationships unfinished and create a general sense of loss when our life ends. If you died tomorrow, what will be your legacy, and what will happen to your estate?

What is your legacy?

A legacy is something handed down from one generation to another. A legacy can be either a spiritual or material form and include lessons, principles and insights on life and living.

Everyone leaves a legacy. Our very existence has had an impact on the world in one way or another.

A formal way of recording a legacy is through an ethical will, which is focused on conveying the writer’s values and principles to the next and subsequent generations. Creating your own Ethical Will allows you to tell your life story, identify what values are important to you and to communicate your legacy to the next and possibly subsequent generations.

The State of your Estate.

Your estate is everything you own or have an ownership interest in. This includes tangible assets such your home, automobiles, jewelry, collectibles, personal property, etc.

It also includes your intangible assets such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, pension plans, life insurance, etc. When you die, your estate is still here and has to be distributed either according to a plan you created or one directed by the state government.

A basic estate plan consists of a will, durable power of attorney and a health care directive. These documents will help minimize confusion and conflicts during a time of family stress. You should also make sure that the named beneficiaries on pension plans, insurance policies, IRAs and similar contracts are current.

A will directs what will happen to an individual’s assets when they die. An executor is appointed to make sure that the will is processed correctly and that its terms are carried out.

In addition, if there are minor children, a guardian should be named for their care until they become adults.

If a person dies without a will, their death will be considered “intestate.” State laws of descent and distribution will determine how their estate will be distributed to surviving relatives.

If there are no living relatives, the property will go to the state. Also, if there are minor children, the state will appoint a guardian.

A durable power of attorney allows an individual to appoint someone to handle their financial affairs should they become incapacitated or unable to manage their finances.

Having a valid durable power of attorney can help the family avoid having a guardian or conservator appointed by the court during an individual’s illness.

The most common health care directive is the living will. If an individual is terminally ill and cannot make medical decisions on their own, a living will describes the type of medical care they do or do not want to prolong life.

Also, in some states, an individual can appoint someone to make medical care decisions.

Live as if you are going to die tomorrow and plan as if you are going to live forever. Begin today to make sure that the legacy and estate that you leave is in accordance with your desires.

Arrange a meeting with your attorney to get the process started.

Michael G. Shinn, CFP, Registered representative and advisory associate of and securities and investment advisory services offered through Financial Network Investment Corporation, member SIPC. Visit http://www.shinnfinancial. com for more information or to send your comments or questions to shinnm@financialnetwork.com.

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Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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