When do You Begin to Plan for Your Future Ending?

I can remember coming home from school and my Mother would ask, “Did you have a good day at school?” and shortly thereafter she would ask, “Do we need to plan for tomorrow?” That was her way of asking if I had any homework assignments. From those early days and throughout my life, everyone has been telling me, no preaching to me, to plan for my future. I have been told to plan for the downside, plan for a rainy day, plan to be wealthy, plan for tomorrow, plan your day, plan to be happy, and of course plan for your death. At any given point it seemed as though you could plan yourself into the poor house.

The thought of planning my death has always intrigued me. Do I actually get to pick the time and day of my death? Not exactly, but you do get to determine by whom, and how, your hard work will get distributed upon your death; planned or not. The questions are always; when should I start planning and how do I start? The answer is always NOW, so START ASKING QUESTIONS!

The funny part about death is that it always brings out the worst in people. Death is guaranteed regardless of social stature and most of you reading this will not be prepared. Do you really care?

I have a friend and colleague from San Diego who explained that he was concerned about an untimely death placing a significant burden upon his wife and family. Primarily due to the nature of his real estate business and the many partnerships he was involved in. An untimely death would thrust his wife into several partnerships with many people she did not know or trust. Yes, he probably was smart enough to have a buy-sell arrangement within his partnerships, but even those are not always quick or easy. My friend needed a way to solve a majority of the perceived problems. My friend began to write a detailed account of his “What Is” and “What To Do’s” if he should die unexpectedly. My friend prepared what I have begun to call my “Maintaining Wealth” document. Think about it, what is the first thing your executor does after you die? He goes out and sells your best asset to pay for those dreaded Estate Taxes and to provide the funding for your estate. Is that a bad thing? Most likely! The asset that was sold was appreciating and all the others were depreciating. What is the value of your estate now? Prevent stupidity by appointing a good executor and by providing him with a road map of what should and should not be done to preserve your estate.

In preparing a “Maintaining Wealth” document you will want to include a list of everything in your life that has any value. That document should include, but not be limited to, all checking and savings accounts, all pertinent income sources, details of each partnership outlining the structure of that partnership, a list of all of your assets, identify any retirement programs or accounts, list who your executor is and where your will can be obtained. After you have listed everything go back through the list and identify the key people at each bank that you deal with, identify the partners that will help your spouse if there is a problem, allocate a value of each asset or partnership interest and identify those assets that could be sold “As-Is” or possibly discounted to raise the cash required by your estate. Plan the transition of each partnership; which partnership should your spouse stay in, which is appreciating and should not be sold, which have buy-sell and what are the terms of those buy-sell agreements, which partnership or asset is in transition and what the future should be and why. Provide copies of or identify where the partnership agreements can be found. The bottom-line is that you need to outline your life so that a loved one can step into your shoes and walk your walk.

For an outline of a Maintaining Wealth form email the author at borderprop@att.net.

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