Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
The holiday season is not only a time to reflect on the past and consider your future, it’s also a time to cherish wonderful days with your loved ones. While spending time with children and family and thinking about how time has passed and kids have grown, many people will begin to think about the life they have created and the legacy they will leave behind.
Over the next 30 years, baby boomers who pass away are poised to pass on as much as $30 trillion. This is described by the Washington Post as “the largest transfer of wealth in U.S. history” and the legacy you will give your children when you pass on go far beyond the gifts that may be under the tree. The vast amounts of money that will be passing from one generation to the next have left many parents wondering what exactly they should do with their money… and some of them even make unconventional choices.
The Post reports on very wealthy individuals, like Bill and Melinda Gates and the musician Sting, who don’t want to leave all of their money to their kids because they don’t want to create a disincentive for their children to do something on their own. Of course, even those who don’t have the millions or billions that these famous and wealthy individuals have will still need to make some important choices about the legacy they want to leave behind for their loved ones. Spending time with new generations over the holidays is a reminder that now is the perfect time to plan ahead to secure their futures.
When Legacy planning goes beyond just estate planning, most people make the choice to plan ahead for what happens after their death. They can make sure they avoid chaos and fighting among family members and to ensure their assets go to those close to them. The process of estate planning can involve transferring ownership of assets into a Trust, creating a Will, and also making plans for how assets will be distributed and to whom.
However, there is a step beyond estate planning that many families consider: legacy planning. Legacy planning means not just transferring money, but gifting assets in a way that provides guidance and protection and instills values in those who receive the inheritance. For those who chose legacy planning, the goals may be to provide a nest egg for kids; to protect money in the event of a divorce or creditor claim; and to encourage those who receive a gift to use the money wisely.
There are different approaches to legacy planning and it depends on what your most important goals are. For example, options may include:
- A Family Access Trust: This provides unfettered access to an inheritance, while ensuring that your money is protected in the event that your beneficiary divorces. If you want your kids to be able to do what they want with the money you leave behind but you don’t want it to fall into the clutches of an ex, this may be the right choice.
- A Family Sentry Trust: This type of Trust provides an inheritance that is shielded both from the hands of ex-spouses in a divorce and from the hands of creditors. The Family Sentry Trust can also be managed to protect beneficiaries who may not have a lot of experience with handling money or who may be prone to bad investments. The added level of protection provided by this Trust ensures that the money you leave to your children will not be squandered on careless investments or eroded by poor financial choices.
The Post quoted Warren Buffet, who believes that the right amount to leave to children is “enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.” Leaving a legacy behind that benefits your children is a difficult thing to achieve, and parents need to know how to create a plan that provides for their loved ones in a smart way.
This holiday season, as you contemplate gifts to give to celebrate the holidays, it is the perfect time to get started on creating a comprehensive plan for the legacy gifts you will leave behind. An estate planning lawyer can provide you with the advice you need to make the very best plan to enrich your children after your death.