Don’t Forget the Simple Things
I attended a Wealth Management conference in Austin, TX with 168 other independent Wealth Management Advisors from across the country. Three days of sessions gave us insights on how to be better advisors to the clients we serve. We studied complex topics such as law changes, investment strategies, retirement and long-term care planning, taxes, estate planning, new technology, just to name a few. One of the most striking matters we discussed was how sometimes, the seemingly most simple things are often either overlooked, left undone, or misunderstood. Even people who have surmounted great success and accumulated respectable wealth often forget or just plain do not know how important proper planning is.
Powers of Attorney. What would happen if you were to become temporarily or permanently incapacitated? Who would make decisions or take control of your assets and financial affairs? Assigning powers of attorney such as for financial or healthcare reasons, to someone you trust is an easy way for your loved and trusted one to step in on your behalf. Should you become incapacitated and not have the proper documents in place, your loved ones must petition the court for permission to act on your behalf and report back to the court on a regular basis. This hassle, cost and confusion can all be avoided with proper planning.
Account titling and beneficiaries. Who will inherit your accounts when you pass away, and what will be the process? Life insurance companies and account custodians (banks, investment firms, etc.) must pay proceeds according to the beneficiary forms on file, account titling or transfer instructions on the account. We reviewed a case where a school administrator had passed away in the 30th year of her occupation. She had been married for 27 years and apparently, had not reviewed or updated the beneficiary on her retirement account. 30 years prior, when she began her career and enrolled in the retirement plan, she had named her mother, her uncle and her sister as beneficiaries. Her mother and uncle had since passed away, therefore the sole remaining beneficiary of the $930,000 account was her sister. This was much to her husband’s surprise, as he and she had planned on this respectably sized nest egg for their retirement income. The widower tried to reason with his sister-in-law about the oversight: she would not budge on a single dime. He then petitioned the court and the judge upheld the payout to the beneficiary. In his early-60’s, after 27 years of marriage, the husband was left without the retirement money that he had planned on. What mattered the most in this case was not investment performance, account fees, whether or not to do Roth conversions, or how to make contributions. What mattered the most was simply the beneficiary designation.
There is a lot of complexity in financial and retirement planning. Then again, sometimes the simplest things make the biggest differences.
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
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