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Beyond Legal Documents:
12 Planning Strategies for
a “Good Ending”
Dr. Barbara O’Neill, CFP®, AFC®
Owner/CEO, Money Talk
Objectives
 Briefly define and discuss estate planning
 Briefly discuss key legal documents
 Define and discuss “a good ending”
 Discuss 12 key strategies beyond legal documents
Estate Planning is Related to
Many Other Financial
Planning Decisions
Source: Madura, J.
Personal Finance (2004),
Pearson Education
So…What Exactly is
Estate Planning?
• Estate planning is the process of determining the
distribution of your assets upon your death
• Estate planning also includes management of your
personal affairs during your lifetime, including in
the event of incapacity
In Other Words…
• You give what you have
• To whom you want
• When you want
• The way that you want
• At the lowest possible cost (e.g., taxes and
administrative costs) to yourself and loved ones
• And have instructions left to make medical and
financial decisions if you are unable to do so
When Should You Plan
Your Estate?
Today
Mental
Incapacity
Catastrophic
Illness Death
Your Planning
Opportunity
Will
Living Will
Powers of Attorney
Source: Goldberg Law Center, PC
Benefits of Estate Planning
• Provides control over asset distribution process
• Provides peace of mind
• Reduces income taxes
• Reduces estate administration cost and delays
• Reduces/avoids estate taxes
• Reduces/avoids gift taxes
• Provides incapacity planning
A Good Estate Plan
• Documents that are properly drafted
• Documents that are regularly updated
• Assets that are properly titled
• No conflicts between titles to assets and a will
• Communication of wishes among family
• Regularly reviewed documents
Why People Avoid
Getting an Estate Plan?
• Cost (real or perceived)
• Thinking that your estate is “too small” to support
the expense of planning
• Fear of dying (“jinx factor”)
• Uncertainty about people to name in legal
documents
• Uncertainty about finding legal advisors
• Other?
Property Transfers
Gross Estate
Your will or state
intestacy laws
Non-probate transfers
Jointly owned property
Life Insurance
IRAs
401(k)s, 403(b)s, TSP
Annuities
Assets with named
beneficiaries
Planned distributions
Property titled in your name
Probate
Process
Adapted From:
Goldberg Law
Center, PC
Common Estate Planning
Tools During Your Lifetime
• Power of Attorney
• Gifting
• Revocable Living Trust
• Guardianship (encompasses all personal affairs of
protected person including support and health care)
• Conservatorship (limited to the management of
property and financial affairs of protected person)
Common Estate Planning
Tools After Your Death
• Will
• State Intestacy Laws
• Joint Tenancy
• Beneficiary Designations
• Trusts
Question:
What do YOU think is a “Good
Ending” to a Person’s Life?
What is a “Good Ending”?
• Dying in peace
• “Niagara Falls” trajectory
• “Burying hatchets,” if needed
• Having advance directives
• Sharing important data
• Less confusion after you die
• Trusted surrogates
• Sharing preferences
12 Planning Strategies for
a “Good Ending”
Some strategies are interrelated. For example…
 A letter of last instruction and a separate writing list for
distribution of untitled property
 Communicating with heirs and preparing a financial
notebook
Benefits of Planning Strategies
• Provides personal peace of mind
• Helps your personal representatives, attorney, and/or
first responders
• Helps your family/survivors in a time of grief/stress
• May result in lower taxes and estate administration
expenses
1. Simplification and Downsizing
• Many people have “asset sprawl”
• Estate planning will ALWAYS be easier with fewer
items to manage or dispose of
• Action steps:
– Sell unneeded possessions
– Gift unneeded possessions
– Donate unneeded possessions
– Consolidate similar financial accounts (e.g., 401(k)s and IRAs)
– Consolidate investments at a single financial institution
– Limit new possessions and financial assets
Benefits of Consolidating Assets
• Easier to track asset allocation & rebalance portfolio
• May save money on account fees
• Easier to calculate required minimum distributions
(RMDs)
• Fewer account statements and tax statements
• Easier estate settlement process
• Easier performance monitoring
• “One stop shop” (fewer points of contact)
Warning:
Simplification Takes Time!
2. Net Worth Calculation
• Assets minus debts = net worth
• Provides a “status check” of your finances
– Update at least annually
• Easily identifies assets and debts for executor
• Make a notation of property ownership method
• Share with executor and trusted loved ones
Net Worth Worksheet
https://njaes.rutgers.edu/
money/pdfs/net-worth-
calc-worksheet.pdf
Excel Template:
https://njaes.rutgers.edu/
money/
U.S. Savings Bonds Inventory
https://www.treasurydirect.gov/BC/SBCPrice
Example: I bond returns,
2000s decade issued
bonds, July 2022
3. Emergency Contact Cards
• Include name, address, phone number, and
emergency contacts to call or text
• Available for free through American Red Cross,
health departments, law enforcement, or CERT
(Community Emergency Response Team)
• Keep in wallet, cell phone pocket, car, fridge
• Make a notation about pets at home alone
Red Cross Emergency
Contact Cards
https://www.redcross.
org/content/dam/redc
ross/National/m4240
194_ECCard.pdf
File of Life With a Magnet:
Keep on Your Refrigerator
4. Financial “Notebook”
• A “one-stop” place for financial information
• It does not have to be an actual notebook or binder
• It could be available on a flash drive or in the cloud
• Include the following data:
– Contact information for financial advisors
– Information about insurance policies
– Information about financial accounts (bank, brokerage)
– Information about retirement savings accounts
– Information about real estate
– Information about debts
– Information about vehicles
– Location of other important papers
Template Form- Page 1
https://njaes.rutgers.edu/money/pdfs/important-papers.pdf
Template Form- Page 4
5. Digital Assets Inventory
What are digital assets?
• Personal information that is stored electronically on
either a computer or online “cloud” server account
• Often provides access to financial accounts
• Requires a username and/or password or PIN or
two-factor authentication process to access
• Can be difficult or impossible to retrieve if someone
is incapacitated or passes away
Common Digital Asset
Categories
• Electronic device access
• Benefit accounts (e.g., rewards programs)
• E-mail accounts
• Financial accounts
• Online merchant accounts
• Organization accounts
• Photography/music accounts
• Publication accounts
• Social media accounts
• Virtual currency accounts
Digital Asset Inventory
https://njaes.rutgers.edu/mo
ney/pdfs/Digital-Assets-
Worksheet.pdf
Plan B: Use a password
manager program
(e.g., Keeper, LastPass, 1Password)
and share the password
with trusted parties
Planning Tip: Name a
“digital executor” in your
will to manage your digital
property after you pass
6. Beneficiary and Personal
Representative Designations List
• Identifies non-probate “pass through” assets
• One-stop list for all beneficiary and personal
representative designations
• Makes it easy to track beneficiaries and update
them, as needed (e.g., as a result of life events)
• Helps identify gaps (e.g., lack of contingent beneficiaries)
• Information gleaned from:
– Legal documents: will, trust, living will, power of attorney
– Life insurance policies and annuities
– IRAs and employer retirement savings accounts
– Other (savings bonds, POD bank accounts)
Beneficiary and Personal
Representative Worksheet
https://njaes.rutgers.
edu/money/pdfs/ben
eficiary-
designations.pdf
Common Beneficiary Errors
• Not naming any beneficiary
• Not naming contingent beneficiaries (i.e., Plan B)
• Not keeping beneficiaries updated
• Thinking that beneficiaries will share assets with
others
7. Untitled Property Planning
• Recognize the “sensitivity” of the issue
• Decide what is “fair” for your family
• Consider interests of family and friends
• Make a written list of “stuff” and heirs
• Share list with family and/or executor
• Consider lifetime gifting
• Consider various distribution options (no “perfect” method)
– List of designated recipients (separate list, referred to in will)
– Labeling items
– “Prize” drawings/raffles
– Family consensus and trade-offs
– Lifetime gifting with stories
Resource
• Use for items of
tangible property
• Can be handwritten or
computer-generated
• Clearly identify each
piece of property
• Sign and date the form
• Initial/date any changes
• Keep with will
• Keep updated if listed
property is sold or gifted
Source: Colen & Wagoner, P.A.
More Resource Materials
• Who Get’s Grandma’s
Yellow Pie Plate? Video:
https://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=z3NNoVRQpI8&t
=629s
• Who Get’s Grandma’s
Yellow Pie Plate? Fact
Sheet:
https://www.canr.msu.edu/
uploads/files/firm/Betz/Gra
ndmas_Yellow_Pie_Plate_
MT199701HR.pdf
8. Letter of Last Instruction
• Not legally binding, but very useful
• Provides heirs with valuable information
• Data and “task list” for survivors:
– Funeral and/or memorial service preferences
– Obituary content (e.g., tribute bequests) and distribution list
– Information about prepaid funeral services
– Names of people to be notified about your death
– Others to be notified (SS, pension, credit cards, final employer)
– Location of bank accounts, safe deposit box, etc.
– Disposition of personal effects (untitled property)
Template Worksheet
https://www.extension.
uidaho.edu/publishing/
pdf/CIS/CIS0958.pdf
Personal Example: My “Who to
Contact and What to Do After I Die List”
• Contact Social Security and OPM (pension)
• Contact Rutgers University personnel office
• Contact attorney
• Contact cremation provider; share obituary
• Contact several professional associations
• Cancel credit cards
• Change bill pay for 3 bills tied to a credit card
• Bring clothes, etc. to thrift shop
9. Personally-Authored Obituary
• YOU get to choose what is said about you
• One less thing for heirs to do at a time of stress
• You may want TWO versions
– Short obituary for newspapers
– Longer obituary for tribute websites
• Save it electronically and share with family
• Numerous online templates are available
Template Examples
Resource:
https://www.obituaryhelp.net/
Actual Obituary Examples
“[X] got in the TARDIS and has left for places and times
unknown… Expressions of sympathy may be made
to MoveOn.org, or other non-profit organizations that seek to
keep banks, Wall Street, insurance companies, politicians and
other traditionally greedy and untrustworthy groups in line.”
Some people add advice to their obituary (e.g., “make
someone smile every day”) or make personal requests. For
example, Sonia Elaine Todd, who died of cancer at age 38,
wrote a famous obituary asking readers to do things, like
forgive someone, quit smoking, and volunteer, in her honor.
10. Pre-Planned and
Pre-Paid Funeral
• Pay funeral home now for anticipated future services
• YOU get to choose details; e.g., how and where?
• One less thing for heirs to do at a time of stress
• Read “the fine print” very carefully
– Big concern: not dying where you made the arrangements
• Plan B: Letter of instruction for funeral/memorial
details + a POD account for final expenses
FTC Resource
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0305-planning-your-own-funeral
11. Lifetime Gifts and
Philanthropy
• Five key benefits:
– Decreases taxable estate value (for estate taxes)
– Can help reduce probate/administration costs
– Helps with downsizing (“stuff” and financial assets)
– Can watch gift recipients use/enjoy gifts
– May help reduce income taxes (e.g., DAFs, QCDs)
• 2022 annual gift tax exclusion: $16,000 per donee
• 2022 estate/gift tax exclusion: $12.06 million per
deceased
Estate Tax Laws Can Change!
Under current law, federal
estate tax rates range from
18% to 40% (taxable
estates of $1 million+)
Most people are shielded
from tax by the basic
exclusion amount
Seek professional guidance
with large estates and
gifting transactions
12. Communication with
Surrogates and Heirs
• It is usually best to tell family members about planned
gifts to charity (no “surprises” and disgruntled heirs)
• Make sure family members/surrogates know what you
want (e.g., extra-ordinary care directions, burial wishes)
• Make sure family members/surrogates know the
location of key documents and information
• Use “I” messages to describe feelings or beliefs: “I feel
[emotion] when [action] occurs”
“I” Statement Example
“I am (feel) worried
when I think about the
end of my life because it
scares me. What I need
is to know that you will
carry out my wishes not
to have a feeding tube or
artificial life support.”
Other “Good Ending”
Planning Strategies
• Ethical Wills/Legacy Letters- Describe beliefs,
ethical values, life lessons, family history, pride
points, forgiveness, gratitude, hopes for the future
• Legacy Videos- Self-record videos and create
YouTube links and/or save mp4 video files
• Legacy Books and Tools- Examples: Storyworth,
Do Not Reply, Memories, Lastly, Safe Beyond
• Change in Housing- Move in with family members
or friends, move to a CCRC in later life
What Comes Next?
• This talk is like a “Jersey Diner Menu”
• Pick strategies that work for you
• “Start small” (one strategy at a time)
Final Comments, Questions, or
Experiences?

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  • 1. Beyond Legal Documents: 12 Planning Strategies for a “Good Ending” Dr. Barbara O’Neill, CFP®, AFC® Owner/CEO, Money Talk
  • 2. Objectives  Briefly define and discuss estate planning  Briefly discuss key legal documents  Define and discuss “a good ending”  Discuss 12 key strategies beyond legal documents
  • 3. Estate Planning is Related to Many Other Financial Planning Decisions Source: Madura, J. Personal Finance (2004), Pearson Education
  • 4. So…What Exactly is Estate Planning? • Estate planning is the process of determining the distribution of your assets upon your death • Estate planning also includes management of your personal affairs during your lifetime, including in the event of incapacity
  • 5. In Other Words… • You give what you have • To whom you want • When you want • The way that you want • At the lowest possible cost (e.g., taxes and administrative costs) to yourself and loved ones • And have instructions left to make medical and financial decisions if you are unable to do so
  • 6. When Should You Plan Your Estate? Today Mental Incapacity Catastrophic Illness Death Your Planning Opportunity Will Living Will Powers of Attorney Source: Goldberg Law Center, PC
  • 7. Benefits of Estate Planning • Provides control over asset distribution process • Provides peace of mind • Reduces income taxes • Reduces estate administration cost and delays • Reduces/avoids estate taxes • Reduces/avoids gift taxes • Provides incapacity planning
  • 8. A Good Estate Plan • Documents that are properly drafted • Documents that are regularly updated • Assets that are properly titled • No conflicts between titles to assets and a will • Communication of wishes among family • Regularly reviewed documents
  • 9. Why People Avoid Getting an Estate Plan? • Cost (real or perceived) • Thinking that your estate is “too small” to support the expense of planning • Fear of dying (“jinx factor”) • Uncertainty about people to name in legal documents • Uncertainty about finding legal advisors • Other?
  • 10. Property Transfers Gross Estate Your will or state intestacy laws Non-probate transfers Jointly owned property Life Insurance IRAs 401(k)s, 403(b)s, TSP Annuities Assets with named beneficiaries Planned distributions Property titled in your name Probate Process Adapted From: Goldberg Law Center, PC
  • 11. Common Estate Planning Tools During Your Lifetime • Power of Attorney • Gifting • Revocable Living Trust • Guardianship (encompasses all personal affairs of protected person including support and health care) • Conservatorship (limited to the management of property and financial affairs of protected person)
  • 12. Common Estate Planning Tools After Your Death • Will • State Intestacy Laws • Joint Tenancy • Beneficiary Designations • Trusts
  • 13. Question: What do YOU think is a “Good Ending” to a Person’s Life?
  • 14. What is a “Good Ending”? • Dying in peace • “Niagara Falls” trajectory • “Burying hatchets,” if needed • Having advance directives • Sharing important data • Less confusion after you die • Trusted surrogates • Sharing preferences
  • 15. 12 Planning Strategies for a “Good Ending” Some strategies are interrelated. For example…  A letter of last instruction and a separate writing list for distribution of untitled property  Communicating with heirs and preparing a financial notebook
  • 16. Benefits of Planning Strategies • Provides personal peace of mind • Helps your personal representatives, attorney, and/or first responders • Helps your family/survivors in a time of grief/stress • May result in lower taxes and estate administration expenses
  • 17. 1. Simplification and Downsizing • Many people have “asset sprawl” • Estate planning will ALWAYS be easier with fewer items to manage or dispose of • Action steps: – Sell unneeded possessions – Gift unneeded possessions – Donate unneeded possessions – Consolidate similar financial accounts (e.g., 401(k)s and IRAs) – Consolidate investments at a single financial institution – Limit new possessions and financial assets
  • 18. Benefits of Consolidating Assets • Easier to track asset allocation & rebalance portfolio • May save money on account fees • Easier to calculate required minimum distributions (RMDs) • Fewer account statements and tax statements • Easier estate settlement process • Easier performance monitoring • “One stop shop” (fewer points of contact)
  • 20. 2. Net Worth Calculation • Assets minus debts = net worth • Provides a “status check” of your finances – Update at least annually • Easily identifies assets and debts for executor • Make a notation of property ownership method • Share with executor and trusted loved ones
  • 22. U.S. Savings Bonds Inventory https://www.treasurydirect.gov/BC/SBCPrice Example: I bond returns, 2000s decade issued bonds, July 2022
  • 23. 3. Emergency Contact Cards • Include name, address, phone number, and emergency contacts to call or text • Available for free through American Red Cross, health departments, law enforcement, or CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) • Keep in wallet, cell phone pocket, car, fridge • Make a notation about pets at home alone
  • 24. Red Cross Emergency Contact Cards https://www.redcross. org/content/dam/redc ross/National/m4240 194_ECCard.pdf
  • 25. File of Life With a Magnet: Keep on Your Refrigerator
  • 26. 4. Financial “Notebook” • A “one-stop” place for financial information • It does not have to be an actual notebook or binder • It could be available on a flash drive or in the cloud • Include the following data: – Contact information for financial advisors – Information about insurance policies – Information about financial accounts (bank, brokerage) – Information about retirement savings accounts – Information about real estate – Information about debts – Information about vehicles – Location of other important papers
  • 27. Template Form- Page 1 https://njaes.rutgers.edu/money/pdfs/important-papers.pdf
  • 29. 5. Digital Assets Inventory What are digital assets? • Personal information that is stored electronically on either a computer or online “cloud” server account • Often provides access to financial accounts • Requires a username and/or password or PIN or two-factor authentication process to access • Can be difficult or impossible to retrieve if someone is incapacitated or passes away
  • 30. Common Digital Asset Categories • Electronic device access • Benefit accounts (e.g., rewards programs) • E-mail accounts • Financial accounts • Online merchant accounts • Organization accounts • Photography/music accounts • Publication accounts • Social media accounts • Virtual currency accounts
  • 31. Digital Asset Inventory https://njaes.rutgers.edu/mo ney/pdfs/Digital-Assets- Worksheet.pdf Plan B: Use a password manager program (e.g., Keeper, LastPass, 1Password) and share the password with trusted parties Planning Tip: Name a “digital executor” in your will to manage your digital property after you pass
  • 32. 6. Beneficiary and Personal Representative Designations List • Identifies non-probate “pass through” assets • One-stop list for all beneficiary and personal representative designations • Makes it easy to track beneficiaries and update them, as needed (e.g., as a result of life events) • Helps identify gaps (e.g., lack of contingent beneficiaries) • Information gleaned from: – Legal documents: will, trust, living will, power of attorney – Life insurance policies and annuities – IRAs and employer retirement savings accounts – Other (savings bonds, POD bank accounts)
  • 33. Beneficiary and Personal Representative Worksheet https://njaes.rutgers. edu/money/pdfs/ben eficiary- designations.pdf
  • 34. Common Beneficiary Errors • Not naming any beneficiary • Not naming contingent beneficiaries (i.e., Plan B) • Not keeping beneficiaries updated • Thinking that beneficiaries will share assets with others
  • 35. 7. Untitled Property Planning • Recognize the “sensitivity” of the issue • Decide what is “fair” for your family • Consider interests of family and friends • Make a written list of “stuff” and heirs • Share list with family and/or executor • Consider lifetime gifting • Consider various distribution options (no “perfect” method) – List of designated recipients (separate list, referred to in will) – Labeling items – “Prize” drawings/raffles – Family consensus and trade-offs – Lifetime gifting with stories
  • 36. Resource • Use for items of tangible property • Can be handwritten or computer-generated • Clearly identify each piece of property • Sign and date the form • Initial/date any changes • Keep with will • Keep updated if listed property is sold or gifted Source: Colen & Wagoner, P.A.
  • 37. More Resource Materials • Who Get’s Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate? Video: https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=z3NNoVRQpI8&t =629s • Who Get’s Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate? Fact Sheet: https://www.canr.msu.edu/ uploads/files/firm/Betz/Gra ndmas_Yellow_Pie_Plate_ MT199701HR.pdf
  • 38. 8. Letter of Last Instruction • Not legally binding, but very useful • Provides heirs with valuable information • Data and “task list” for survivors: – Funeral and/or memorial service preferences – Obituary content (e.g., tribute bequests) and distribution list – Information about prepaid funeral services – Names of people to be notified about your death – Others to be notified (SS, pension, credit cards, final employer) – Location of bank accounts, safe deposit box, etc. – Disposition of personal effects (untitled property)
  • 40. Personal Example: My “Who to Contact and What to Do After I Die List” • Contact Social Security and OPM (pension) • Contact Rutgers University personnel office • Contact attorney • Contact cremation provider; share obituary • Contact several professional associations • Cancel credit cards • Change bill pay for 3 bills tied to a credit card • Bring clothes, etc. to thrift shop
  • 41. 9. Personally-Authored Obituary • YOU get to choose what is said about you • One less thing for heirs to do at a time of stress • You may want TWO versions – Short obituary for newspapers – Longer obituary for tribute websites • Save it electronically and share with family • Numerous online templates are available
  • 43. Actual Obituary Examples “[X] got in the TARDIS and has left for places and times unknown… Expressions of sympathy may be made to MoveOn.org, or other non-profit organizations that seek to keep banks, Wall Street, insurance companies, politicians and other traditionally greedy and untrustworthy groups in line.” Some people add advice to their obituary (e.g., “make someone smile every day”) or make personal requests. For example, Sonia Elaine Todd, who died of cancer at age 38, wrote a famous obituary asking readers to do things, like forgive someone, quit smoking, and volunteer, in her honor.
  • 44. 10. Pre-Planned and Pre-Paid Funeral • Pay funeral home now for anticipated future services • YOU get to choose details; e.g., how and where? • One less thing for heirs to do at a time of stress • Read “the fine print” very carefully – Big concern: not dying where you made the arrangements • Plan B: Letter of instruction for funeral/memorial details + a POD account for final expenses
  • 46. 11. Lifetime Gifts and Philanthropy • Five key benefits: – Decreases taxable estate value (for estate taxes) – Can help reduce probate/administration costs – Helps with downsizing (“stuff” and financial assets) – Can watch gift recipients use/enjoy gifts – May help reduce income taxes (e.g., DAFs, QCDs) • 2022 annual gift tax exclusion: $16,000 per donee • 2022 estate/gift tax exclusion: $12.06 million per deceased
  • 47. Estate Tax Laws Can Change! Under current law, federal estate tax rates range from 18% to 40% (taxable estates of $1 million+) Most people are shielded from tax by the basic exclusion amount Seek professional guidance with large estates and gifting transactions
  • 48. 12. Communication with Surrogates and Heirs • It is usually best to tell family members about planned gifts to charity (no “surprises” and disgruntled heirs) • Make sure family members/surrogates know what you want (e.g., extra-ordinary care directions, burial wishes) • Make sure family members/surrogates know the location of key documents and information • Use “I” messages to describe feelings or beliefs: “I feel [emotion] when [action] occurs”
  • 49. “I” Statement Example “I am (feel) worried when I think about the end of my life because it scares me. What I need is to know that you will carry out my wishes not to have a feeding tube or artificial life support.”
  • 50. Other “Good Ending” Planning Strategies • Ethical Wills/Legacy Letters- Describe beliefs, ethical values, life lessons, family history, pride points, forgiveness, gratitude, hopes for the future • Legacy Videos- Self-record videos and create YouTube links and/or save mp4 video files • Legacy Books and Tools- Examples: Storyworth, Do Not Reply, Memories, Lastly, Safe Beyond • Change in Housing- Move in with family members or friends, move to a CCRC in later life
  • 51. What Comes Next? • This talk is like a “Jersey Diner Menu” • Pick strategies that work for you • “Start small” (one strategy at a time)
  • 52. Final Comments, Questions, or Experiences?