You may have noticed in recent weeks how some news outlets have reminded us of the 10-year anniversary of the stock market crisis of 2008. One writer mentioned how buying an S&P 500 index fund in mid-September 2008 and holding it over the next 6 months created a loss of value of 46%.
We are not in the same conditions as 10 years ago, but it is still wise to evaluate our current situation with an eye toward proper asset allocations for our risk profile and time horizon. In last month’s newsletter I referenced football coaches’ game plans that didn’t focus just on a strong offense to succeed. A defense that contributed to the on-field triumphs was just as critical. Just look at the Chicago Bears in the first three games of the season.
Another aspect of being prepared for the future includes protecting your assets and your heirs. As the saying goes, “If you don’t have a plan for your assets the state government sure does.”
It is a situation that happens frequently for many families. Someone passes away without a will, called “dying intestate”. That means that your state has rules in place which determine how assets are distributed. Dying intestate comes to light in the news very often when a celebrity dies but leaves no legal structure for dispensing their estate assets. A recent example is performer, Aretha Franklin, who died in August at the age of 76.
Most published reports indicate she left no will for her four sons, but I have seen an article which argues that she instructed that a personal representative manage the distribution of her assets.
Another example of how a celebrity structured his estate is Burt Reynolds and his only child, Quinton. Numerous articles indicate that Quinton was not a named inheritor directly from Reynolds’ will. This wasn’t a matter of being disinherited. The will instructs that Reynolds’ son receive assets through a trust. The trust language provides for privacy from his fans and the public, so it isn’t definite that Quinton is or will be a recipient of assets from his father. But the legal documents are doing as Reynolds intended.
From these and many other examples I will highlight areas where proper planning with a trusted legal advisor can smooth waters before a family member passes or possibly alleviate disagreements after the loved one’s death. For anyone who needs a referral of an estate planning attorney, please feel free to contact me.
An example of using someone who doesn’t specialize in estate planning is when a copper mining heiress created two wills in the matter of months. The wills were in conflict regarding the inheritors and the value of the assets as determined by the attorney versus the heiress’ accountant. That emphasizes the need for all of a client’s professional advisors to coordinate their activities. Designating an independent advisor is a way to help all parties assist the client to achieve his or her goals.
The need for communication is not just needed for the advisors, it might be needed for the family members. A recent survey by BMO Wealth Management shows that only 28% of respondents have shared their estate distribution plans and selections for executors with relevant family members. At a minimum, it is recommended to create “letters of instruction” or “legacy letters”, which detail the decedent’s hopes for an inheritor’s use of the funds or assets. This could be a wish for philanthropic endeavors or pursuing higher education accomplishments.
In addition to proper structure of estate plans and legal documents, it is critical to support clients with oversight of assets to avoid financial abuse. In the last few years the financial news has reported increased elder abuse. Back in 2011, Mickey Rooney addressed the Senate Special Committed on Aging describing his own encounter with financial abuse. Stepchildren from his eighth marriage stole millions of dollars from Rooney and put him in fear for his well-being. This example and many other cases of financial exploitation led Congress to create the Senior Safe Act signed into law earlier this year. This measure encourages financial advisors and institutions to take steps by detecting and combating abuse.
As you see, there are financial issues encountered by scores of people from all walks of life. Studying examples of these struggles and successes may help you to organize and document your desires for your loved ones and organizations you support, both now and as part of a legacy.
We now are moving into one of the top four seasons of the year, Fall! As comedian Jim Gaffigan says, “it’s not a competition in America’s Next Top Season. It’s just Fall.” Well, I hope you have a great fall season.
Provider Group, Ltd.
** Without a Will, you’re leaving many decisions to your state of residence to decide.