Nobody wants to think about what happens after they’re gone. However, we also want to ensure that those who matter most to us in this world are taken care of no matter what. That’s where having a solid financial plan comes into play.
Here’s the truth: As a society, we don’t think enough about this kind of financial planning—even though it can make all the difference for our families. In fact, 56 percent of Americans acknowledge how important estate planning is, but only 33 percent of adults have established end-of-life plans.
Planning for how you’ll care for your family after you’re gone is the ultimate act of love. And no matter where you are in life, it’s worth consideration. You can do this—here’s how to get started.
Step 1: Start Now—And Partner With an Expert to Build a Plan That Works For You
It’s never too early to start securing your financial future—which is a significant first step in taking care of your family. At any income level or net worth, a financial advisor can help you come up with a strategy to get you where you want to go. So when should you start? The answer is simple: Start now.
Recent graduates and those just entering the workforce should think about working with a financial advisor as soon as they start to earn a living—and even then, they can start to consider how to care for their loved ones and manage their assets after they’re gone.
But this doesn’t mean that if you’re already years into your career that it’s too late to set up your family’s financial future. Working with a financial advisor at any stage of life can help you navigate life’s most significant events and ensure your family is taken care of.
Here’s why: When you work with a financial planner, you get the help of a qualified expert who will look at your current assets, your income, and your goals and create a roadmap to help you make it happen on your timeline. A financial advisor can help you come up with a plan to do all sorts of things that strengthen your family’s financial future, including:
- Pay off any debts you may have from things like college, medical bills, or credit cards
- Save for, purchase, and pay off a house to secure your family home
- Establish financial security and manage any unexpected emergencies
- Set up a retirement plan and start saving for your and your partner’s later years
- Invest in your child’s future and build a financial portfolio to fund higher education
- Discuss long-term plans and determine how your assets will be distributed after you are gone
Depending on where you are in life, ensuring your family’s financial future will look different; if you are just starting a family, your plan to care for your family will vary greatly from someone who has grown children and young grandchildren, or someone who is entering their retirement years. That’s why working with a financial advisor is so essential—they can cater a plan to your unique situation based on what’s most important to you at this stage of life, then help you refine your plan as you and your family grow and evolve.
Step 2: Plan for Their Future
Depending on the ages of your children and partner or spouse, you should start to consider what’s ahead for them. Does this look like a college funding plan for each child? A financial plan to pay off your debt before you’re gone? A retirement plan for your spouse? A customized financial plan to help a family member invest in their next big goal?
Your financial advisor will look at what goals you and your family have for the future and then set plans in motion to make them happen. And again—it’s never too early to start saving. For example, many experts recommend starting to save for and strategize a child’s education fund as soon as they are born, or as early as possible.
Through tax-advantaged accounts like 529 plans, your financial advisor will give you the tools and strategies you need to make the most of your investments and navigate the cost of tuition, loans, and other college expenses with education fund planning. And after the college years, an advisor can help you structure student loan debt (and any other debts, for that matter) in advantageous ways to continue to set your family up for success in their financial future.
Likewise, you can work with your financial advisor to forecast your and your partner’s income and expenses and discover what your life might look like in retirement. Whether you’re 24 or 54, you can continue to hone and contribute to your retirement plan and maximize your investments. Your financial advisor will coach you on how to invest and manage your assets to make the most of your golden years and navigate any challenges that come your way so that even if the unexpected happens, your family is set up for success.
When it comes to your family’s financial situation, your financial advisor can help you craft a plan that helps your loved ones succeed through life’s biggest milestones.
Step 3: Come Up With a Thorough Estate Plan
Estate planning is the ultimate act of taking care of your loved ones; it’s about planning all the details of how your finances will be managed after you are gone or in the event you become incapacitated.
This means deciding how your assets will be distributed but also includes things like settling estate taxes, debt, and other considerations including guardianship for minor children; you’re making sure everything is handled and decided so your loved ones don’t have to make hard decisions. No matter who you are or what your financial situation is, estate planning is an important step in ensuring your nearest and dearest's continued financial (and sometimes physical) security.
An estate plan accounts for every aspect of your financial life, and can make sure that your heirs and beneficiaries come into ownership of your assets the best way possible; you can even limit the amount of estate and gift taxes or other tax impacts in the way you plan your estate. By doing this, you maximize the total value of your estate as it is passed on; you can provide more to those who mean the most. Estate planning includes considerations like:
- Settling your estate taxes and any debts you may have
- Establishing who will take guardianship of minor children (and/or pets)
- Caring for your heirs and/or bequeathing assets to beneficiaries
- Distributing assets and making charitable contributions after your death as part of your will
- Setting up financial distribution and care if you become incapacitated as part of your living will
We’re Here For You
Thinking about what happens after we are gone can be challenging. At Fingerlakes Wealth Management, we’re here to make it simple and easy to care for your loved ones and ensure their financial future at every stage of life.
Let us walk you through every step of the process and offer the best guidance and counsel throughout. We know that no two estates are alike, so we’ll determine the best course of action for your individual situation, working closely with your CPA and attorney to meet the goals you have in mind, from setting up trusts and selecting a Power of Attorney to overseeing arrangements and updating beneficiaries. We’ll be with you–and your family–every step of the way.
With compassionate support and expert guidance, we are here for you. Connect with our team to learn more.