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Estate Planning: Ensuring your legacy and family’s future.

in Managing Money & Credit
estate planning

What do roughly two-thirds of Americans have in common with rich and famous people, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Aretha Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Kurt Cobain, Pablo Picasso, Stieg Larsson, Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, and Howard Hughes? They don’t have a will. Settling the estates of these people took years—some even took decades—and in the end cost a lot of money. In many instances their wealth and assets ended up in the hands of people who probably would not have made the short-list of heirs had the deceased left a will. For regular folks who pass on without a will, their estates can end up being settled by the state, not their family and friends. If you’re in that majority don’t feel bad- you’re in great company – but it’s past time to take action.

We Are the Procrastination Nation

For many people, estate planning can feel awkward and uncomfortable. It isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially when it feels like a chore one could easily put off for another day, or even a year or two. According to Caring.com’s annual Wills & Estate Planning survey, nearly two-thirds of all Americans think it’s important to have a will – roughly the same amount of people who don’t have one. When asked, 43% of those people say “procrastination” is the main reason they haven’t made one. 40% believe they don’t have enough assets to bother. 23% are not inclined to make a will for any reason. Nine percent believe there is no one to whom they can leave their assets, and an equal amount think making a will is too hard or expensive.

And We Pay for It

There are dozens of interesting statistics on this subject, but two stand out: 35% of American adults say they or someone they know has experienced family conflicts because an estate plan was not in place when a relative died; over the next three decades, as the remaining 55 million baby boomers pass away, between $30 to $70 trillion dollars in assets will be transferred to heirs or bequeathed to institutions. For those that pass without an estate plan or a will, the state may decide how to distribute the inheritance they left behind.


The simple fact is everyone over the age of eighteen should have a will in place addressing how their assets should be handled or distributed. You should make that choice – not a court – and spare your loved ones the time, expense, and emotional costs of having to go through an extended and expensive probate process.

Wills cover assets including real estate, vehicles, retirement and bank accounts, personal possessions, business interests, and pets. You should also consider an Advance Directive (often referred to as a “living will”) instructing how you want to be cared for should you become incapacitated or incapable of making informed decisions regarding your care, or designating someone to make those decisions on your behalf. Finally, if you know how you’d like to be memorialized, put it in your estate plan, and ideally, make and pay for those arrangements in advance; doing so will save your survivors time and money during their time of grief.

Some people will also need to consider establishing a trust and designating an estate manager or executor to make sure assets are protected, taxes are minimized, and loved ones and dependents are cared for as intended.

Tick, Tick, Tick

That is a lot to take in, but it is important to begin working on your estate planning now. It is also important to commit to keeping your estate plan updated as your circumstances change due to marriage, divorce, children, asset accumulation, inheritances, and other life-altering events and situations.

Hopefully by now we’ve convinced you of the necessity of creating your own estate plan. There are many resources that can assist you.

Yes, you’ll likely have to engage at some point with legal and tax professionals to make sure your plan complies with tax and inheritance laws, but you can start your estate planning on your own.

Get it Done

Below are the initial steps to get you started.

  1. Take Inventory of Your Life
  • Make a detailed list of what you own and what other valuable assets you have (investments, retirement and bank accounts, insurance policies, pensions, etc.). Include an estimate of their value, and to whom you wish to receive them on your passing.
  • Decide what should be done with items of lesser value. Should they go to Goodwill or halfway house? Sold at an estate sale with the proceeds given to a relative or charity?
  • List people (and pets) who rely on you and think of how you want them to be cared for.
  • What about donations to institutions or organizations?
  1. Make a Will

Include plans for everything in the inventory. Also include directives: who will hold Power of Attorney (someone who can make decisions on your behalf) and who is the executor (this person carries out the actions described in the will and should be informed of and agree to the responsibilities beforehand). If you have minor children, you should appoint a guardian to manage their care and finances (otherwise this will be determined by a court).

3. Talk with a Professional

Steps 1 and 2 are the hard parts. Many people put them off because they don’t think they can afford to finalize their will without having to spend a lot of money on professionals. Help can be more affordable than you think. Ask friends and associates for referrals, and don’t be afraid to ask about costs up front. If you find someone you want to use but can’t afford, ask them for a referral.

Partner with Lafayette Federal to Secure You and Your Family’s Future

At Lafayette Federal Credit Union, we offer our members the opportunity to protect their assets and grow their wealth through our investment services and retirement solutions, and we can talk with you about wealth transfer and estate planning. Our financial advisors will listen to your financial needs, provide impartial advice and be dependable and responsive. The process starts when you ask for a no-cost, no-obligation review of your current financial situation.

Appointments are available at any of our branch locations, via virtual appointment, or at a business office location of your choosing.

Please note that the information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, whether financial, legal, or otherwise. Always seek the advice of a qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding your financial situation or investment decisions.

Not a Lafayette Federal member yet? You can become a member by completing an online membership application.

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