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A new year is upon us. Most of us want to set goals and areas of self-improvement for the next 12 months—especially after the year we have just had! However, the best resolution you can make is ensuring that your legacy and wishes planning is set.
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We have all heard the recent stories about Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh’s tragic and untimely passing. He was 46, reportedly worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and had no formal legacy and wishes plan, including no will.
It is very easy to think, regardless of your age, that you do not need one. However, even if you don’t have a large fortune (or a small one), leaving family members as allies instead of adversaries is the best legacy you can leave.
With more complex issues facing families that affect family members’ time, money and wishes, it is critical that you and your family address these three things in your legacy plan in the New Year.
TONY HSIEH, RETIRED ZAPPOS CEO, DIES AT 46
1. Aging Issues
As loved ones grow older, there are a number of issues that can wreak havoc on the life of the person who is aging, as well as the lives of their family members.
The first thing to tackle is caregiving that requires significant time. It’s important to decide as a family who might need to change their current day-to-day activities and give part-time or full-time care and advocacy for aging parents and grandparents. This is because caregiving can cause a life disruption for whoever is charged with the care.
Additionally, the costs associated with aging, whether from enhanced living arrangements, outsourced part-time or full-time care and increased medical expenses can become an issue for all involved.
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Make sure that planning has taken place with appropriate insurance or other financial products brought on as early as possible, and make sure, too, that a back-up plan is in place if the expenses exceed any coverage.
And, of course, make sure you have relevant documents, like Powers of Attorney for medical issues and for property.
You can put together your own repository of information or use a comprehensive legacy and wishes planning system, like our Future File system, to help you navigate the conversation and organize the information for easy access by all.
If there is an emergency, whether a medical emergency for a family member, a natural disaster or accident, does your family have a plan in place?
Who needs to be called and do they have the appropriate legal authority (such as Powers of Attorney) to take action?
WHO NEEDS A WILL?
Is there a meetup location for a natural disaster or terror attack?
Do you have a listing of (and access to) critical information, such as medical histories and other household information?
Talking with your family about putting this together and supporting one another will help make dealing with anything unexpected go more smoothly.
Again, you can choose to use a legacy and wishes planning system to walk you through this or put together your own.
3. A Loved One’s Passing
While death is a difficult subject, there is nothing that can negatively impact family members’ relationships with one another more than the stress that comes with a loved one dying.
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There are a number of issues to consider, from laying the body to rest to wrapping up personal affairs. Regarding the former, it is critical to talk through your loved one's preferences related to cremation vs. burial. This not only prevents fights over the clarity of the loved one’s wishes but also can impact the family.
For example, regarding burial, do other generations of family members want to be buried with their loved ones? If so, you may need to find and purchase burial plots that can accommodate a larger number of people.
Formalizing these plans in a will is critical to ensure that the process for those left behind is clear. It makes sure your wishes are carried out and it doesn’t leave unresolved and difficult decisions that can cause tension to those left behind.
While money is always an issue, sentimental personal items and other personal wishes can also cause strife when grief is mixed in at death. At Future File, we hear stories from families that have had past issues with fights over something as small as a trinket. These are just as common as those who fight because they can’t find the key to the safe deposit box!
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Including your family in these discussions also helps to set expectations up front and relieves burdens for the executor of the estate and your other loved ones.
Use the New Year not only to plan for your goals but to prepare for the worst.
Life cycle events affect every family. Preparation is the best legacy gift you can give your family, this year and every year.
Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File legacy planning system, a “recovering” investment banker, host of "The Roth Effect" podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of "The Entrepreneur Equation." Click here to read more.
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