Articles

Put It In A Letter

Tip: Contact Information. A letter of instruction might include contact information for individuals who could be helpful in the distribution of your assets, such as your lawyer or financial professional.

Actor Lee Marvin once said, “As soon as people see my face on a movie screen, they [know] two things: first, I’m not going to get the girl, and second, I’ll get a cheap funeral before the picture is over.”1

Most people don’t spend too much time thinking about their own funeral, and yet many of us have a vision about our memorial service or the handling of our remains. A letter of instruction can help you accomplish that goal.

A letter of instruction is not a legal document; it’s a letter written by you that provides additional and more personal information regarding your estate. It can be addressed to whomever you choose, but typically letters of instruction are directed to the executor, family members, or beneficiaries.

Make a Cheat Sheet

Think of a letter of instruction as a “cheat sheet” to your estate. Here are a few ideas and concepts that may be included:

  • The location of important legal documents, such as your will, insurance policies, titles to automobiles, deeds to property, etc.
  • A list of financial assets, including savings and checking accounts, stocks, bonds, and retirement accounts. Be sure to include account numbers, PINs, and passwords where applicable.
  • A list of pensions or profit-sharing plans, including the location of their explanatory booklets.
  • The location of your latest tax return and Social Security statements.
  • The location of any safe deposit boxes and their keys.

Identify Funeral Wishes

Fast Fact: Going Without. If you die without a will, also called dying “intestate,” the state will decide how your assets should be distributed.

A letter of instruction is also a good place to leave burial or cremation wishes. You should consider giving the location of your cemetery plot deed, if you have one. You may even wish to specify which hymns or speakers you would like included in your memorial service. Although a letter of instruction is not legally binding, your heirs will probably be glad to know how you would like to be remembered. It also may be helpful to leave a list of contact information for people who should be notified in the event of your death.

There is no “best way” to write a letter of instruction. It can be written in your style and reflect your personality, or it can be written to simply convey information. You should decide what type of letter best fits your estate strategy.

Don’t Wait

Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they don’t have a will.

Immediate and Deferred Annuities

Chart Source: USA Today, April 26, 2016
1. Brainyquote.com, 2016

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2017 FMG Suite.

Eight Mistakes That Can Upend Your Retirement

Pursuing your retirement dreams is challenging enough without making some common, and very avoidable, mistakes. Here are eight big mistakes to steer clear of, if possible.

  1. No Strategy: Yes, the biggest mistake is having no strategy at all. Without a strategy, you may have no goals, leaving you no way of knowing how you’ll get there—and if you’ve even arrived. Creating a strategy may increase your potential for success, both before and after retirement.
  2. Frequent Trading: Chasing “hot” investments often leads to despair. Create an asset allocation strategy that is properly diversified to reflect your objectives, risk tolerance, and time horizon; then make adjustments based on changes in your personal situation, not due to market ups and downs.¹
  3. Not Maximizing Tax-Deferred Savings: Workers have tax-advantaged ways to save for retirement. Not participating in your employer’s 401(k) may be a mistake, especially when you’re passing up free money in the form of employer-matching contributions.²
  4. Prioritizing College Funding over Retirement: Your kids’ college education is important, but you may not want to sacrifice your retirement for it. Remember, you can get loans and grants for college, but you can’t for your retirement.
  5. Overlooking Healthcare Costs: Extended care may be an expense that can undermine your financial strategy for retirement if you don’t prepare for it.
  6. Not Adjusting Your Investment Approach Well Before Retirement: The last thing your retirement portfolio can afford is a sharp fall in stock prices and a sustained bear market at the moment you’re ready to stop working. Consider adjusting your asset allocation in advance of tapping your savings so you’re not selling stocks when prices are depressed.³
  7. Retiring with Too Much Debt: If too much debt is bad when you’re making money, it can be deadly when you’re living in retirement. Consider managing or reducing your debt level before you retire.
  8. It’s Not Only About Money: Above all, a rewarding retirement requires good health, so maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, stay socially involved, and remain intellectually active.

 

  1. The return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. And shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Asset allocation and diversification are approaches to help manage investment risk. Asset allocation and diversification do not guarantee against investment loss. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
  2. Distributions from 401(k) plans and most other employer-sponsored retirement plans are taxed as ordinary income and, if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. Generally, once you reach age 70½, you must begin taking required minimum distributions.
  3. The return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. And shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Asset allocation is an approach to help manage investment risk. Asset allocation does not guarantee against investment loss. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2017 FMG Suite.

Fallen Tree Damage—Who Pays?

As a homeowner, are you responsible for the damage caused by a tree on your property that hits your neighbor’s home or other insured structure, such as a garage or shed?

In most cases, the answer is “no.”

When such damage occurs to your neighbor’s home due to forces outside your control, e.g., weather events, your neighbors may have to file a claim with their insurer to receive a reimbursement for the damage a down tree or branches cause.

There is one exception, however.

If it is determined that the tree damage stems from your negligence (e.g., dead limbs that you refused to cut down, or you chose to trim your tree as a weekend project), then the neighbor’s insurer may come after you to recover their loss—a process called subrogation.¹

You may want to check your policy or speak to your insurance agent to ascertain if your homeowners policy covers your liability in cases of negligence.

When Neighbors Sue

Some neighbors may seek to bring legal action against you, though often that is unnecessary.

First, determine what municipal laws are in place to cover such instances. Generally speaking, you are not responsible unless you knew, or should have known, about the danger. Proving what you knew or should have known can be difficult and costly in a court of law. It typically benefits both parties to arrive at a compromise that avoids an expensive legal process.

 

  1. The information in this material is not intended as as legal advice. Please consult legal or insurance professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation.
The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2017 FMG Suite.