Death and incapacity are natural parts of the process of life. We are born; we grow up; we may experience incapacity, and we eventually pass away. Along the way, we develop our values and accumulate assets and experiences. Sure, when we die, we want to pass along our assets to our family while paying the least possible taxes, but, what is most important is passing along our lifetime of values and experiences.
A new paradigm in estate planning is emerging, Legacy Planning. This allows your plan to consider everyone and everything that is important in your life. It considers not only how much money and assets you are going to leave to your family, but also your life story, your goals, your experiences, and your values.
The heart of Legacy Planning is a Family Wealth Trust. This Trust leaves your tangible assets to your family. You may choose to leave the assets in the Family Wealth Trust so that your beneficiary has the ability to withdraw all the assets at any time, called an Access Trust for the beneficiary. While an Access Trust may provide divorce protection, it does nothing to protect against other creditors. However, you may also choose to leave the assets in your Family Wealth Trust so that your beneficiary is protected from the risks of potential future creditors by leaving the assets in a continuing discretionary Trust, sometimes called a Sentry Trust for the beneficiary. With a Sentry Trust, another person is the Trustee and makes decisions regarding when it is appropriate to make distributions to the beneficiary. This allows the Sentry Trust to protect your beneficiary from the many perils and pitfalls of life, even if you cannot be there to protect them yourself. For example, if your daughter is a physician and is sued for malpractice, the assets which you left for her in the Sentry Trust would not be in jeopardy.
In addition, a Legacy Plan includes Powers of Attorney for financial matters and health care matters, as well as a “HIPAA” power which ensures that those in need (whom you designate) have access to your health information. Perhaps most importantly, the Legacy Plan incorporates the My Legacy Workbook, in which you can share treasured memories, cherished values, and hard-earned lessons which you wish to preserve and pass on to those left behind.
You have more to share with your family than the things which you have accumulated during life. Legacy Planning recognizes that your most valuable possessions may be the values and life lessons you have to share…because the best things in life aren’t things.
An estate planning attorney experienced in Legacy Planning can help you develop a plan that meets your needs and that your family will cherish for generations to come.
Mr. Morrison is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and has been engaged in the practice of law for the last 17 years. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call (504) 831-2348.
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