Column: ‘Write it down’ with legal documents, letters of instruction

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Commentary by Joe Clark

Regular review of financial and legal documents – including wills and estate plans – should be an ongoing part of the financial planning process because many state and federal tax codes have changed recently.

A guiding theme in our office is “write it down.” Aside from reviewing current financial statements, we want to understand the “why” behind a particular account owned or investment allocation and a para-planner documents these reasons. Writing it down allows us to more effectively address questions that may arise in the future.

The same reasoning applies to estate planning documents. Trusts and wills instruct the courts, trustees and executors about your wishes regarding the allocation of your resources upon your demise; or inability to act on your own behalf in the case of a trust. Writing a simple letter to accompany a will or trust is a great idea and can provide reasoning behind the legal documents. Such a letter – while not a legal document – provides heirs with information about an individual’s intentions and feelings.

What should you include in such a letter? Contact information regarding whom to call first is often included. A letter can also share your wishes for a memorial service. Few people put their wishes in writing before their passing, but a letter clearly indicating your wishes can provide an extraordinary amount of comfort to your family during a very difficult time.

Some families are blessed with the financial resources to pay for all of the memorial service and burial costs ahead of time. In our experience, the cost of confusion and strife among family members at the worst possible time makes the process even more expensive. Again, a simple letter describing your wishes and any reasoning behind the wishes can help ease many of these struggles and uncertainties.

Additionally, such a letter can be changed and updated much more easily than a legal document. Your wishes about who receives a family heirloom may change as grandchildren age. A letter is an easy way to be very clear, and clarity is worth a bundle, especially during difficult moments.

Joseph Clark is a Certified Financial PlannerTM and the Managing Partner of the Financial Enhancement Group, LLC an SEC registered Investment Advisor. He is the host of “Consider This” on WQME Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. and has served as an adjunct assistant professor at Purdue University where he taught the capstone course for a degree in Financial Counseling and Planning. Securities offered through World Equity Group, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC, a broker dealer and SEC registered Investment Advisor. Advisory Services can be provided by Financial Enhancement Group (FEG) or World Equity Group. FEG and World Equity Group are separately owned and operated and are not affiliated. Big Joe can be reached at bigjoe@yourlifeafterwork.com, or (765) 640-1524.


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