Modern legacy planning - getting started

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From wills and trusts to estate plans and charitable giving, there are many considerations when it comes to legacy planning.


For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) couples, this has historically been even more complicated as marriage and partnership laws have changed over time. Fortunately, legacy planning has become more simplified for LGBT couples.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was overturned in 2012. This means a same-sex married person can now pass on an unlimited amount of assets to their spouse without paying gift or federal tax. Before the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, a same-sex couple would be taxed and treated as two single people in this situation. The Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges means same-sex couples can be married in any state, and states must recognize their unions.
“Whether you and your partner are married or not, you have a lot of choices to make when doing your legacy planning,” said Hany Haddad, Vice President, Los Angeles District Manager at U.S. Bank. “That’s why we look at every family’s and couple’s unique goals to make sure we are assisting with the most appropriate plan for them.” We talked with Haddad and Darrell Brown, Senior Vice President, Region Manager at U.S. Bank about how to get started with legacy planning.

1. Know there is no cookie cutter.

When working with your tax and legal advisors your marital status, age, whether you have children and more should be taken into account when planning your legacy. The value of your family’s assets will determine steps you need to take to potentially avoid unnecessary state and federal estate taxes. Even if you think you won’t be subject to estate taxes, you can’t make a plan until you sit down with a professional.
“When someone is working on their legacy planning bring a list of their current debts and assets so recommendations can be made that truly fit that individual or family,” says Brown. “And be prepared to respond to a lot of questions, from whether you expect to inherit to professional plans and goals which will help customize the plan for their unique situation.” 

2. Start thinking about your options.

There are many different ways to plan for the future. Understanding your options may help you choose what will work best for your family’s situation. Consider discussing these options with your attorney.

Create a will. This is the traditional way of documenting how you want your assets to be distributed amongst your family after your death. In a will, you can also designate guardians of your children, pets and an executor of your estate to manage your assets in the event that you pass away.

Consider a trust. A trust helps you make sure that your beneficiaries avoid delays and costs during the probate procedure in the event that you pass away. It is important to get help from an attorney, because there are many different kinds of trusts and they can help determine the best option for your situation.

Designate powers of attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document that allows a person of your choice to act in your place in the event that you become incapacitated or unable to handle financial and health matters yourself.

If you and your partner are not married, look into a domestic partnership agreement. A domestic partnership allows you to make shared income, expenses and property plans without a marriage union. It also enables you to establish custody plans if you have children.

Create a health care directive. A health care directive, or living will, is written instructions about your medical preferences that make your intentions clear in the event that you are unconscious or unable to make medical decisions.

Write a final arrangements document. Although a final arrangements document is not an official legal document, it does give you a voice after death. It can include any of your wishes and choices, usually pertaining to your funeral and remains. This type of document with your notarized signature can alleviate stressful situations for your partner, if they are left to make decisions on your behalf. 

3. Don’t forget your digital assets.

Traditionally, estate planning was largely carried out using paper documentation and files. Now, much of peoples’ lives are documented digitally. Make sure you consider what you would want to happen with digital files, accounts and credentials in the event of your death. By locating any accounts you have online and a way for someone to access those accounts if you pass away, you can alleviate much of your family’s stress in retrieving or resetting multiple passwords. Other assets you may want to consider include things like works of art you have created or own, books or screenplays, and perhaps other creative assets that you have saved in digital form. “So many people forget that their music files, movies or books stored on devices do have monetary value,” said Haddad. “If your digital property has any financial value, it may need to be reported to probate court.” 

4. Extend your legacy through charitable giving.

A charitable bequest is a meaningful way to make a final expression of your values and beliefs. “Many people give a percentage of their income to charity throughout their life, and wish they could give more. Charitable bequests are a way to do that,” said Brown. “The charities appreciate it if you make them aware of your plan — a lot of people don’t think to do that.”
Although legacy planning can seem complicated, it’s a necessary process to protect your loved ones from having to sort out those complications while in mourning. By considering your family’s situation and unique set of assets, you will be able to better decide on a mix of solutions that fit your situation.

Find a U.S. Bank Advisor to help you make your plans and prepare to meet with a lawyer about document creation. Having a plan for your family in place before difficult events happen allows your family to focus on your health and your remembrance.


Helpful Links 

•You’re not alone. Find a U.S. Bank Advisor  

•Make sure to visit the U.S. Bank Achieve Your Goals site for more information on planning for your financial goals, together! 

•See Financial Advice for Same-Sex Couples

U.S. Bank and its representatives do not provide tax or legal advice. Each individual's tax and financial situation is unique. Individuals should consult their tax and/or legal advisor for advice and information concerning their particular situation.