Five reasons to prioritize a lasting legacy

Published 5:15 pm Friday, April 7, 2017

By Stephen Poitevint

Have you been dragging your feet on estate planning? You’re not alone. Nearly 64% of U.S. adults don’t even have a will, including 51% of people age 55 to 64, according to website Rocket Lawyer.

But a lack of estate plan, or an outdated one, leaves you and your family vulnerable. Your assets could get tied up in the costly court probate process after death. Your loved ones might have to make difficult decisions about your medical treatment if you become incapacitated. And they might dissolve into bickering over what you might have wanted.

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Think about it: You know your intentions, and who better to choose who will make decisions for you if you become incapacitated? That’s why it’s important to nail down three basic elements:

• A will that includes a list of personal property and who will inherit

• A durable power of attorney to make financial decisions in the event of your incapacity

• An advance healthcare directive

Here are a few reasons to get your affairs in order.

Making sure your loved ones will be taken care of

A will is especially crucial for blended families, where children from a previous marriage may not be automatically provided for in the manner you intended. Taking stock of your assets also offers a chance to think about how well your family will be able to adapt and then plug any gaps. For example, long-term care insurance can protect against the high cost of a nursing home stay, and life insurance can provide a safety net to help pay the bills.

Avoiding probate

There are a few strategies that apply here. One option is to list beneficiaries for your bank and retirement accounts to ensure the money goes straight to them. You can also create a revocable living trust for your property, give assets away while you’re alive or consider joint ownership.

Ensuring someone you trust will be available to manage legal and financial matters

A durable power of attorney can also step in if you should become incapacitated and handle property maintenance or manage investments or a small business. You can designate joint power of attorney if you think more than one person is needed to handle your affairs.

Securing the medical treatment you want

A living will and durable power of attorney for healthcare, both elements of an advance healthcare directive, can address when to provide or withhold artificial nutrition and other life support.

Minimizing federal and state

estate taxes

There are a number of ways to preserve more of your assets to benefit your loved ones and favorite charities.

Your family and your legacy are important; take the time to protect them as best you can. Once your plan is in place, you will need to review it, including beneficiary designations, once a year and after each major life change.

Material created by Raymond James for use by its advisors.  The information has been obtained from sources considered reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete.  Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC, an independent broker/dealer, and are not insured by FDIC, NCUA or any other government agency, are not deposits or obligations of the financial institution, are not guaranteed by the financial institution, and are subject to risks, including the possible loss of principal.

Raymond James does not offer Tax or Legal advice. You should consult the appropriate professional on these matters.

Stephen P. Poitevint is a Registered Principal and Financial Advisor of Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC, and is located at 908 Tallahassee Highway, Bainbridge, Georgia, and can be contacted at (229) 246-7208 or