December 2020
Cocheco Elder Law Associates Lawyer for Life - Keeping your family healthy, wealthy and wise

In This Issue

Your Legacy is More than Just the Money You Leave to Loved Ones


What is the Difference Between a Will, a Living Will, and a Pour-Over Will?


Now Is a Good Time to Review Your Estate Plan


A Personal Note From Tom

Your Legacy is More than Just the Money You Leave to Loved Ones

When we hear the word legacy, many of us think of money left to people and institutions that have come to mean the most to us over the course of our lives. But your legacy is much more than that. It includes your memories, values, wisdom, family history, and more that do not necessarily have monetary value. How can you pass those on to future generations?


You could begin by writing down, or making a recording of yourself sharing, stories about your parents, grandparents, and other relatives. Don’t just talk about where they lived and what they did for a living. Try to convey a sense of who your family members were, what was important to them in life, and the values they held dear.


You’ll want to take a similar approach in telling your own story. Describe why you made certain decisions, what you learned from mistakes, how you achieved success, and what you would do differently if you could. It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so be sure to preserve photos that depict your history and that of other family members. You might even want to create a website featuring your stories and photos, and invite family members to contribute to it.


Now let’s consider items that may not be worth much money but have a great deal of sentimental value: an old watch owned by your uncle, for instance, or the rocking chair that your mother used for many years. You’d be surprised at how many family disputes arise over items like these. If one of your children has shown interest in such an object, you could specify in your will that he or she receives it when you pass away. Regarding sentimental objects that have not been “claimed” by your children, consider using an estate planning letter to designate the person you would like to inherit it, and why.


What about your values, is there a way to increase the likelihood that these will be passed on as well? One approach is to use an estate planning tool, such as an Incentive Trust, to encourage certain behaviors while discouraging others. For example, your trust could reward your children for graduating from college, entering a certain profession, purchasing a home, or doing charitable work.


In the end, you may be surprised by how much your values, wisdom, and family history—the nonmaterial aspects of your legacy—mean to the people you love and future generations.

What is the Difference Between a Will, a Living Will, and a Pour-Over Will?


These three legal documents have similar names but they are quite different in terms of the estate planning goals they help you accomplish.


A Will directs how a person’s estate is to be administered and how his or her assets will be distributed after death. The person who creates the will is called the Testator while the individual who settles the estate is known as the Executor. Naming the Executor and specifying “who gets what” in advance can help eliminate family infighting.


A Living Will details a person’s wishes concerning his or her medical care, including artificial life support, surgery, or other medical treatments related to an end of life situation or permanent unconsciousness. Meanwhile, a healthcare proxy names a trusted person to make medical decisions on behalf of an individual who has become incapacitated.


A Pour-Over Will is a type of will that is used in conjunction with a trust. Instead of governing how your property will be distributed after you pass away, a pour-over will states that assets not placed into your trust will go to the trust when you die. In essence, it names your trust as the beneficiary of any property not held in the trust already.


What is the benefit of a pour-over will? If you neglect to put your assets into your trust (a process known as “funding” the trust), and you don’t have another will in place directing where your assets should go, assets without specific beneficiary designations will pass to your heirs according to the laws of intestate succession. That is, the state will decide “who gets what” based on established guidelines. Chances are the state’s guidelines for asset distribution will not accurately reflect your wishes.

Ideally, you won’t need your pour-over will because your trust has been properly funded. However, it’s reassuring to know you have a safety net, just in case.

 

Now Is a Good Time to Review Your Estate Plan

For many of us, the holidays are a time to reflect upon the changes that have taken place over the course of the year. (There is certainly a lot to reflect upon this year!)

 

As estate planning attorneys, the end of the year is a time to remind our clients about the importance of keeping their plans up-to-date. Ask yourself this: Has anything changed in your medical or financial situation this year? What about your heirs: Have your adult children gotten married (or divorced), started a family of their own, fallen into debt, or experienced other significant developments in their lives?

 

Your estate plan must take changes like these into account to ensure it is up-to-date and capable of accomplishing your goals. The fact is an outdated plan can be worse than having no plan at all.


As you reflect upon the changes that have taken place this year, we hope you also consider the implications of these changes for your estate plan. As always, we’re here to help.

A Personal Note From Tom

Incorporate the Power of Positive Thinking Into Your Estate Plan


Scientific studies have found a wide range of benefits from a positive outlook and positive thinking. Happy people tend to be more successful, healthier, and live longer. In this pandemic, too many of us are focused on worst-case scenarios and gloomy predictions. If you can resist the pull of negativity and embrace the power of positive thinking, you can increase your own wellbeing as well as that of your children or other beneficiaries by creating an estate plan designed to promote their happiness. The legacy you create will enable your children and beneficiaries to live healthier and more prosperous lives.


During this time of crisis, a positive attitude is more important than ever. We can help you identify the ways you can incorporate positivity into your estate planning. The result will provide you with the assurance and peace of mind that you are providing your family with financial security and are leaving a positive legacy. The legacy you create will foster your loved ones’ well-being and future success.


Please call us today to schedule a meeting so we can discuss how you can best achieve your positive estate planning goals. We are prepared to meet with you in person, over the phone or video conference if you desire.

Tom