We’re granted certain unalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of financial progress. I might have taken some liberties with the third item on the list, but one could argue that finances have a direct impact on level of happiness. That’s not because people need money to be happy. It’s because the financial world can be nebulous and overwhelming, and trying to put all of the pieces together into a coherent plan is often anxiety-provoking.
In fact, a recent study found that 55% of those surveyed “feel lost when it comes to a long-term and stable financial plan.”1 I believe that’s because financial literacy is not a core competency in our educational programs. We aren’t taught to create a budget or how to invest. Our vocabulary tests don’t include the terms 401(k) or annuity. And we certainly aren’t encouraged to think about what happens to all of those financial instruments when we die.
I can’t augment our school curriculum, but I can help curate and broadcast financial education, particularly in the realm of legacy planning. I can also provide the tools and resources people need to develop a plan. The good news is I’m not alone in my desire to arm people with information that promotes financial progress. The other day, I discovered a highly reputable company that’s based on the same objective. Credit Karma says in its mission statement that “everyone deserves to feel confident about finances.” This company helps people achieve that confidence by offering free access to credit scores, reports and monitoring. They also make it easy (and free) to search for unclaimed money in case their subscribers are owed money they don’t know about. More on this in a minute.
I wholeheartedly agree with their approach, and my LegacyShield co-founder and I are doing the same thing for estate planning. We believe that everyone should have access to what they need to create an estate plan. Just as Credit Karma believes you have a right to know if there’s an error on your credit report, we believe you have a right to protect and pass on your legacy.
Why an estate plan is important
Like balancing a budget or investing in mutual funds, we aren’t taught how to create a plan for our personal and financial belongings. But there are two primary reasons why it’s important.
You don’t want your assets to get lost. It was hard enough in the analog age when families spent hours looking in shoeboxes and combing through filing cabinets after a loved one passed. But in the digital age, where the average person has at least 90 online accounts2, it’s near impossible for your family to track down your belongings.
That’s why more than $59 billion3 of unclaimed assets are sitting in state accounts. That’s millions of dollars spread across old bank accounts, forgotten 401(k)s and tax refunds, often because the rightful owners haven’t an inkling they exist. In most areas of life, people are fully immersed in the digital age – they pay their credit card balances and deposit checks from their phones. Yet, when it comes to estate planning, many are stuck in the analog era, keeping paper proof of their life insurance policies and a hard copy 401(k) statement. Because those items are so easy to lose, we recommend creating a digital repository for all of your financial records and mementos like photos and stories. By organizing everything you have into one comprehensive list – accounts with usernames and passwords as well as family recipes – you can share an easy-to-follow roadmap with your family when the time is right. This way, your heirs know about your life insurance policy or the unpaid tax refund and can follow up with the institution directly. They know about the recipe for Grandma’s famous lemon frost cake. You’ve worked all of your life to amass the assets you have. You have a lifetime of stories to tell and recipes to share. We believe you deserve to have a plan for passing down money, stories and memorabilia to the next generation.
There is another reason beyond leaving a legacy and making sure your family is taken care of. That reason is making sure you are taken care of and your wishes are respected should you become incapacitated. You can do that with the help of three documents: a last will and testament, a health care proxy and a power of attorney. A will tells your heirs what you want to happen to everything you own and value. Who do you want to have your beloved coin collection? Your health proxy designates the person who ensures those wishes are carried out. This person has access to your medical records and makes decisions on your behalf, guided by your living will. A power of attorney does the same thing for the financial side of your life. Many people don’t think of these situations as part of an estate plan, but they become essential if you’re alive but unable to think and act on your own behalf.
The idea behind making financial education and planning tools accessible to everyone is that, when people have access to the right tools, they’re better able to plan for their futures. By giving advisors a way to offer an estate planning service to all of their clients, we’re giving everyone the ability to leave a legacy. When you work with us, you’ll have access to an integrated platform – where you can store and share both personal and financial information – with enterprise-grade security.
We’re not the only legacy-planning solution on the scene, but what sets us apart is our belief that people need and want the help of their advisors, accountants and life coaches. We believe financial planning takes a village. It’s the reason we offer our service through advisors – to make sure you have that guidance during every step of the process.
After all, everyone deserves to feel confident about their estate plan.
1 GuideVine study via the New York Post