By Mary Grace Musuneggi
Due to the state of the current economy, we all might feel that the most important piece of a good financial plan is rate of returns. But markets go up and go down, interest rates go up and go down, inflation pulls prices up, and poor economic conditions can exist. But these same circumstances will probably exist many times while you are building your wealth — and even more times while you are living in retirement and spending your wealth.
A good, structured financial plan leaves room for adapting to a changing economy. But the one critical part of your planning that always needs addressed in all economic climates is estate planning. Most of the major issues that we have had to address for our clients, that cause us and them the greatest stress, is an improper estate plan.
We have had to watch those with incomplete planning, have no one to address their finances when they are disabled because they did not have Powers of Attorney. We have seen business owners watch their businesses fail while there is no plan for handling operational issues when they cannot. This is due to lack of proper business operation documents or adequate business Powers of Attorney. We have watched the families of clients, clients who did not want to spend the attorney fees to do the proper documents, lose half or more of their estates in taxes, litigation and attorney fees. Clearly a cheap Estate Plan can be worse than no plan at all.
Another issue we see is those clients who get the documents, but never share them with those who would be their Powers, or Executors, or Guardians. On top of that, there are those documents that are never reviewed and years later these people have moved, died, or can’t act. Or, the documents are hidden away giving no one an idea of where to find them when they are needed. We have seen clients pay for very expensive trusts only to find out that they have nothing to put in the trust. Or they have never updated their assets to reflect the trust. A huge waste of time and money.
Other common mistakes:
- Leaving assets to children under 18
- Leaving everything to one child to share with the other children
- Selecting a Health Care Power of Attorney who is living out of state/Not having an alternate
- Having one Power of Attorney that covers Health and Financial
- Thinking that personal documents are the complete planning if you own a business
- Not having a succession plan if you own a business
- Improper titling of accounts when a Power of Attorney would be a better option
- Not maintaining hard copies of all beneficiary arrangements/Not having contingent beneficiaries
- Not completing final expense planning
I recently read a study that indicated that only 33% of Americans have wills, which is down from 51% in 2005. One thing is for sure, the 67% are going to die just like the 33%. And they will leave behind something that someone else has to deal with. The stress of having to deal with something for someone can easily be avoided by doing a good Estate Plan now when it is not needed; instead of at a time of crisis when it is.
If you are a client of The Musuneggi Financial Group, you are required to have a Financial Power of Attorney on file. That way we are sure we have someone to work with if a time comes when you are not able to handle things for yourself. We always want to be able to help and not have the lack of a piece of paper stand in the way. During an emergency we never want to have to say, “We are unable to help.”
If we do not have your most recent Financial Power of Attorney, please forward it to us. If you need an attorney to help you get your documents in order, or review your current ones, we can help. If you don’t have copies of your beneficiaries, contact the companies holding your insurances, investments, employee benefits, and company retirement plans. And please reach out to us at 412-341-2888 to discuss this further.
Mary Grace Musuneggi, CLU, ChFC, CFS, RFC
Chairman & CEO