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How do I… protect my loved ones

Nothing is more important than protecting the people you love most. Planning for the future can be hard when you're focused on the day to day of life. The sensitive nature of the topic makes it easy to avoid thinking about. It doesn't have to be this way. In this post, we'll break down these topics and help you choose the best products, like wills and estate plans, for your unique needs. We promise safeguarding your family's future doesn't have to be as complicated as it sounds. Let's get started.  

Understanding the unexpected: a financial terms primer

Financial-speak can make it intimidating to research products and services and make confident decisions. In this section, we’ll start with the basics and break down some key concepts behind estate planning and wills.  

First, we should note the difference. A will is a legal document that outlines how your assets should be distributed after you pass away. Estate planning takes it further; it’s a complete plan for managing your finances and protecting your loved ones if you are incapacitated or pass away. Estate planning is important because it allows you to stay in control of what happens with your assets, medical care, and family by making those important decisions while you’re still alive. It’s also there to make sure your loved ones are taken care of, and your wishes are respected after you’re gone.  

Without proper estate planning in place, unnecessary stress and financial burden could be placed on your family if, for example, your assets end up tied up in probate court. Probate refers to the process of the courts formally accepting a will, or appointing someone to act on the deceased’s behalf if they did not have a will in place.

To protect your loved ones, start by understanding terms like probate, power of attorney, and beneficiary designations. Let’s break these down simply so you can start protecting your family today.

Make a will

A will is a legal document that ensures your assets are handled according to your wishes. This is also where you’ll name a guardian for any minor children.

Name beneficiaries

Make sure you have named beneficiaries for your retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other financial accounts. This will avoid probate by making sure assets go exactly where you want them to right away.

Establish a power of attorney

This is someone you trust to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to. Choose someone who knows what’s important to you and has your best interest at heart.

Review insurance coverage

Life insurance provides a financial safety net for your loved ones after your death. Make sure your coverage is sufficient for all the expenses they’ll face, including mortgage payments, education costs, and daily living.

Stay organized

Keeping your documents organized and knowing where they are will save a lot of time and stress if the unexpected happens. Make sure someone you trust knows where to find your will, financial account documentation, and insurance policies. Keep them somewhere safe and accessible.

Planning ahead to safeguard your loved ones’ futures 

The right planning strategies can make all the difference. These are some common strategies to consider as you make your plan: 

  • Estate planning involves looking at your entire financial plan beyond your will. Start by breaking down your financial situation overall, and carefully defining your goals. What assets do you have, and how to you want them distributed? What will your family’s needs be in the short and long-term future? A financial advisor or estate planning attorney can help you develop a plan that works for you and your unique situation.    

  • Establishing a trust is another key strategy. A trust can help you keep estate taxes to a minimum, avoid probate, and keep the long-term financial needs of your loved ones covered. A trust can also give you more control around how your wishes are carried out.  

  • Another consideration might be a living will and power of attorney. These documents outline your medical wishes and appoint someone to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to do so. With a living will and power of attorney, you can make sure your medical choices are respected, and spare your loved ones from having to make these very difficult decisions for you.  

Make sure you review and update your estate plan regularly. Life happens, circumstances change, and you want the plans you have in place to reflect your current situation and wishes. This could include making changes to your beneficiaries, changing your will or trust, or adjusting insurance coverage.

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Prepare for and get comfortable with tough conversations

By having ongoing conversations about finances and potential situations (however undesirable) that could come up, couples and families can strengthen their relationship and face challenges head on together. 

Open conversations about finances can also help prevent the misunderstandings and disagreements about money that are more likely to happen in emergencies or stressful times.  

Make sure to cover how changes to income could affect the family, especially when business ownership is involved. What contingency plans can be put in place? What conversations need to happen with other family members who may be impacted? You probably won’t be able to cover everything in one sitting, so make sure you plan to revisit these conversations from time to time, or when life changes come up. 

One last note on peace of mind 

Let's take a moment to review some of the essential tips for facing the unexpected head-on and protecting your loved ones. By now, you should feel more confident when it comes to having discussions around estate planning and wills, and the role these play in securing your family's financial future. By taking stock of where you are, putting a plan in place with your loved ones, and securing the right legal documents, you’re off to a great start. Keep having those conversations, make sure your documents are easy to find, update them when needed, and most importantly, try to relax knowing that you’ve done everything you can to protect your family. 

Want help getting started?

Our wealth protection specialists can help review your finances, identify any insurance gaps, and ensure your loved ones are protected against emergencies.

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