Legacy Planning: The What, Why & How

Why you need to think about legacy planning

Legacy planning, also known as estate planning, is when you decide how your money and your assets should be  distributed after you pass away. Your legacy plan is created with the help of an attorney and certified as a binding legal document, so that once you pass away, your wishes will be carried out. 

We understand that no one wants to think about passing away, especially when children are involved. However, if you’re an older adult and don’t yet have an up to date will or legacy plan, we strongly recommend speaking with an estate planning attorney soon to create one. Unfortunately, accidents and illnesses can happen to any of us at any time, and you don’t want your family to be left without instructions after your death. Passing away without a will  can cause tension, frustration, arguments, and major rifts among your family and leave the distribution of your assets up to the state. In this article, our independent senior living specialists at UMC will discuss legacy planning and give you some invaluable insight on getting started. 

What Is Legacy Planning?

Creating a will or estate plan is not solely about divvying up your assets. We like to use the term “legacy planning” because the process also involves discussing core values, how you want to impact the lives of your children or heirs, and, often, a community or charitable cause close to your heart. 

Why Is Legacy Planning Important?

It’s very important that you leave behind instructions for what to do with your assets after you’re no longer here. It doesn’t matter what your family structure is like, if you have kids or no kids, or if you aren’t wealthy. Distributing assets after a death can easily become a complicated process that takes months, or even years, to resolve in probate. 

Many people are under the impression that only wealthy people need legacy plans, but this isn’t true. Everyone can benefit from having a legacy plan, especially if you have loved ones you’d like to leave things to. 

How to Start Legacy Planning

Here are questions to ask yourself when starting the legacy planning process:

  • What assets do I have?
  • What is their total worth?
  • Who do I want to receive each asset?
  • Do I want to leave a personalized note along with each asset?
  • Do I want to leave any assets or money to charity?
  • Who do I want to be in charge of my assets if I become incapacitated and am not able to make decisions myself?

After you’ve gathered the answers to these questions, contact a local estate planning attorney and work with them to turn your answers into legal documentation. Once your legacy plan is official, it’s important to review it on a regular basis and ensure any changes are reflected. You don’t want to stick it away in a drawer and forget about it for years and years. Keep it updated and keep it current. 

Tips for Legacy Planning

  • Work with a lawyer who specializes in legacy planning. Don’t fall victim to the “create your own estate plan” websites, because their legality is often contested. Instead, use those tools or guides as a starting point to help you get your thoughts down on paper.
  • Keep your lawyer updated on any changes to your estate. For example, if you buy a new house, open a new business, divorce or remarry, buy a new car, or make changes to your investment portfolio, your estate planning lawyer needs to know.
  • Don’t put it off! Legacy planning often goes on the list of things you’ll eventually get around to, but we recommend getting your legal affairs in order as soon as you can. 

For more information about legacy planning and why you shouldn’t put it off any longer, or if you have any questions, please contact our team at UMC. We can provide a list of  compassionate advisors who can help get you started on your legacy planning today. 

If you would like more information on including United Methodist Communities in your will or estate plan, you can visit umcommunities.org/foundation/planned-giving or contact Gary Engelstad, UMC Foundation Giving Officer, at 732-731-2129 or gengelstad@umcommunities.org

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