Hi everybody my name is Miranda Dressler and I’m the associate attorney with the Law Offices of Bridget Mackay in Petaluma, California. And, we practice in the area of estate planning and elder law. And today, I’m going to talk to you a little bit about leaving a legacy.
And what I mean by legacy really is; how are you going to leave things for your kids and your grandkids? How are they going to remember you? The way that, you know traditionally in this country, estate planning has been done is to have a really narrow focus on what’s important. The focus really has been on protecting your financial assets. Protecting from taxes, avoiding probate and avoiding conservatorship. And then really just dumping your assets onto the next generation without too much of a thought of how that inheritance might affect that generation.
The way traditional estate plans have been done is generally to leave outright distributions to benefit… beneficiaries. Which really just means whatever that person is receiving they basically just receive it like a check. Just receiving a check. However, at this firm, we look at estate planning really as crafting how you’re leaving your legacy.
Instead of giving outright distributions to your beneficiaries, maybe you want to leave the assets for a specific purpose. Like to pay for your grand children’s college education or maybe you have a child or grandchild who has special needs and receiving an outright distribution would kick that beneficiary off some really important, maybe government entitlements that they might be receiving.
There’s also the issue of if your beneficiaries maybe aren’t financially responsible or are married to someone who’s not financially responsible or have creditors and you want to leave the assets to that person but also protect the assets from those problems.
So, you can think of a trust really like a tube of toothpaste you know once the distributions come out, you can’t put them back in. You know, if there’s a divorce happening or if someone has special needs or someone has a creditor. And if your trust provides for an outright distribution to that beneficiary that’s what’s going to happen. You know, there’s nothing that can be done to prevent those assets from then being dissipated and wasted.
And this time in history is really the largest transfer of wealth that has ever occurred. That’s going on right now and so you really want to prevent the assets that you leave on to those next generations from being wasted.
Legacy planning also can give you the opportunity to pass down your values and your family history down to the next generation. So, for example, you can create incentives like offering financial motivation for getting good grades or participating in community service. You can also document family history and pass down items of sentimental value as specific gifts like your grandmother’s secret apple pie recipe.
Your legacy is so much more than just the assets that you have accumulated. And, your estate plan should reflect that. Your plan should be really well thought out and prepared in a way that will enrich and enhance the lives of your loved ones after you’re gone. And most importantly your estate plan should be reviewed and possibly updated from time to time so that it always reflects your intentions and what you want to have happen with your estate when you pass away.
If you have any questions about this topic or any other topic having to do with estate planning or leaving a legacy, you should contact an experienced estate planning attorney in your area. Thank you so much. Bye, bye.