I think there are two components to our shared reaction about the events in Paris on Friday. On one hand, we have the grief…
Seeing those gruesome images, imagining the regular families whose lives have been forever upended … it’s all so immeasurably sad. And what makes it worse, I think, is wondering what we are to do in response. Our lives feel so removed from the devastation … Here I am seeing images of horror and agony — there I am grabbing a caramel latte with a double shot of espresso.
So, we pray. We perhaps change our Facebook profile picture as a point of remembrance (and despite what the voices of cynicism may say, there is great value in even the smallest acts of solidarite). And we honor the fallen.
And then, on the other hand … we have the fear.
And fear can lead many of us to all kinds of weird places. Whether private anxiety, social anger, even a form of seeming xenophobia … all of these are probably normal in the face of terror such as this.
But we must remember that WE are the primary target of such terror. Our hearts. Our family’s hearts. (Certainly I don’t mean to imply that the actual victims are mere ornaments to this story … but only that the murders were, indeed, a message). The hearts of our leaders.
We must pray for them all — and remember that national policy, whether military or otherwise, is a separate question from our own response. We have the luxury of choosing love — as well as hope — in the face of such terror. Our leaders (and France’s), unfortunately, may not have that luxury in the same way.
So let’s remember to carry our own hearts well this week, shall we?
And though it’s rather jarring to transition from this topic, the plain fact is that onward we must go. I had been planning to write to you about estate planning this week. And so I will…
Gray Laney Exposes Common Myths About Estate Planning in 2015
“For every disciplined effort there is a multiple reward.” – Jim Rohn
As we have seen this past week, life can turn on a dime … and we can’t plan for every one of the specific ways it may do so. But we CAN plan broadly.
And if you have a family, or really anyone who relies upon you, it may be the best kind of holiday gift for you to offer them peace of mind.
For me and my family, we’ve put some simple plans in place for a VARIETY of circumstances, not just financial or legal. And it truly helps us sleep better at night, just knowing we’ve got it all covered.
As of this writing, it’s a fact that almost 60% of Americans don’t have a basic will, and that’s a big problem.
One of the big reasons that most families don’t yet have this in place is because of some incorrect thinking about whether it’s right for them, or if it’s even necessary. And sure, some people just haven’t gotten around to creating a will or trust. Others think they don’t need an estate plan because they’re not rich. I’ve even heard from people that they don’t want to put it in place because when they do, it’s sending some sort of death wish into the universe (or some such).
Well, I’ll start by busting THAT myth: Preparing a plan for your succession will not speed your demise. Easy enough.
But here’s the problem — if you continue without an estate plan, you could leave a legacy of bad feelings and attorneys’ fees.
But, I’ll move off of that easy one, and speak to some of the more common misconceptions out there. I’ll start with two this week, and address three more in a future Note.
1. Only rich people prepare estate plans.
Do you own ANYTHING? Because if so, you need a will. You see, a will allows you to designate who will receive your property should anything happen. Continuing without one ensures that your assets will be distributed under the terms of your state’s “intestate succession” laws. That means your money and property could end up with family members you haven’t spoken to in years, instead of who you’d really like to see control your assets.
I won’t go into all of the different components of a will, trust, health care directive, etc., as my purpose here is to emphasize that failing to plan is simply a decision to trust your assets to government bureaucrats.
Even if you think your situation is pretty straightforward, you may feel more comfortable hiring a lawyer to guide you through the process of estate planning.
2. Everything goes to your spouse, if something happens.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. We deal with clients from different states around the country, and state laws vary. In fact, in most states, if you continue without a will (intestate), your inheritance will be divided among your spouse and your children. In New York, for example, when someone dies intestate, the spouse gets the first $50,000 of the estate and what’s left is divided 50-50 among the spouse and the children.
You can imagine how this could create all kinds of problems, particularly if your spouse was financially dependent on you or you have children from a previous marriage.
I’ll post a few more in the weeks ahead, but I hope you can already see that things are not always as we “think”.
I hope this helps. To your family’s financial and emotional peace…
Laney & Laney PA, CPA