Earlier this month, the United States celebrated Grandparent’s Day, which serves as a reminder to appreciate the hard work and dedication of generations before us (regardless of our current age). However, as Intergenerational Month, September also marks a time to reflect further down the family tree and think about our impact on those who come after us.
Preparing for retirement can be a highly individual process, or a process limited to the relationship between spouses. For example, countless resources exist to help pre-retirees plan for healthcare expenses and lifestyle disruptions. But often, less emphasis is given to the ways in which a strong financial strategy can affect children, grandchildren and other surviving heirs.
For instance, as many as 60% of U.S. adults do not have a will—or an “estate plan”—in place. Without an estate plan, the government will manage the division of your assets, and you will have no say in how your property is split among surviving relatives after you die. Often, the process is tedious and expensive.
Put simply, your financial approach could affect your entire family, so it’s important to plan accordingly. In addition to creating a will, here are three ways to maximize your future financial impact:
Keep your estate plan updated
After you create an estate plan, it should be refreshed every year to ensure it is up to date. Specifically, you’ll want to account for any big changes, including divorce or marriage, the birth or death of an heir, large shifts in your financial situation, significant investment decisions, changes in the tax code and similar developments.
Explore trusts as an additional option
While an estate plan governs the division of all your assets combined, a trust can help fine-tune the approach by letting you handle a specific segment, such as property or a life insurance policy. Importantly, trusts are not the same as estate plans and instead tend to focus on a subset of your assets rather than everything you own. Beyond giving you greater control over how your assets are divided, trusts can help minimize gift and estate taxes.
Examine how retirement products are transferred
A wide range of financial products can help you prepare for retirement, and each is governed by a different set of rules. These rules affect everything from how much you pay in taxes to how the product can be transferred to a surviving heir (if at all). Social Security payments, for example, are not transferred after death, although surviving spouses and dependents may be eligible for survivor’s benefits. Individual retirement accounts (IRAs), on the other hand, often are absorbed into your estate, unless you name a beneficiary beforehand. Annuities, which include products such as fixed indexed annuities (FIAs), may or may not be transferred, depending on your individual agreement. It’s crucial to understand the terms of each product under your control.
To maximize the benefit your estate will confer to your heirs, you’ll need to plan thoroughly and take charge of your financial future.
Not sure where to get started? Take a look at our video gallery to learn more about getting “Game Ready” for life after work.