Recent Comments


    Death Is a Drag, But Don’t Ignore It—Remember to Prepare Your Estate

    By Brandon Miller, CFP–

    Here’s a reality check: We’re all going to die. Yet, our society avoids talking about it, which creates ripple effects on our financial lives. I get it—nothing about death is fun. And planning for it brings a lot of emotional weight to unpack.

    But the financial planner in me says: Let’s talk about death! Your financial life depends on it. In fact, preparing your estate is one of the most important and helpful acts you can do. Of course, it’s more exciting to envision that big boat you’re going to buy. But it’s time to get real, stand up like a boss, and say, I’ve got this!

    Here are 5 estate planning tips to help you get started.

    1.  Healthcare Directives/Living Wills

    Stay in control of your life until the very end. Healthcare directives and living wills give medical professionals your specific wishes like donating organs or ending life support. Without this directive in place, decisions will be made on your behalf that are possibly against your wishes. Also, make sure that your 18-year-old child has their own healthcare directive, since legally, medical professionals can no longer talk with you about their care.

    2.  Medical Power of Attorney

    If you become unable to make your own medical decisions, your medical power of attorney can do so for you. Pick someone who’ll do whatever possible to advocate for your wishes. So, a mom who won’t “pull the plug” on her beloved son? Probably not the best person. In fact, I typically encourage my clients to avoid designating their parents, because they’re too close to you. You want someone who can remain as objective as possible.

    3. Durable Power of Attorney

    When your time’s up, your family won’t want to spend their energy dealing with banks. Appoint someone with durable power of attorney to manage your financial affairs and give your loved ones space to remember and celebrate you. Your durable power of attorney can have power over everything or for something very specific. I recommend choosing someone different than your medical power of attorney. They should be someone who’s a good project manager.

    Also note: Many institutions have their own legal forms. Make sure you understand the specifics. Consolidating your financial accounts can also help streamline this process.

    4.  Wills/Living Trusts

    Wills and living trusts both address what happens to your estate when you die but have differences:

    • Will: These documents inform probate courts of your estate wishes. This process is public and involves the government, which can be timely, cumbersome, and expensive.
    • Living Trusts: As a private process, living trusts doesn’t involve probate courts. You transfer your assets to your living trust, which will direct those whom you designate to inherit your estate. In California, I recommend setting up a trust if you have more than $100,000 in assets.

    Revocable living trusts are common, and you can change them whenever you want. They’re also harder to contest than wills, faster, and cheaper to oversee, since they do not have ongoing administrative fees. (You will pay a one-time setup fee.)

    Retitled Assets

    With living trusts, you’ll need to retitle all assets that belong with the trust. Otherwise, the courts will decide what goes into the trust once you die. Your retirement accounts, however, will have beneficiaries who receive those funds. Also, trusts cannot address children, so you’ll need to create a will for them.

    Executors and Trustees

    You’ll need to designate a person to oversee your will and trust. Each role is a big responsibility, so choose wisely. And always ask the person if they’re up for the task. Wills have executors, and if you don’t list one, the court will do it for you. Meanwhile, trusts have a successor trustee. Another option is to hire a professional fiduciary to administer your estate, which can be a good secondary person to appoint.

    5.  Life Insurance

    Remember to update your life insurance’s beneficiary listing. You don’t want that money going to your ex-partner you don’t speak to whom you still listed as a beneficiary. Also, consolidate your accounts, which will make the whole process of managing your life insurance easier on your loved ones.

    Ultimately, death is never easy. While addressing death is not nearly as invigorating as that vacation beach house, these planning steps are crucial for your financial life. You’ll do yourself and your loved ones a huge favor today that will greatly affect them tomorrow. Death may be a drag, but it’s happening, and at least you’ll be ready like a pro.

    Brio does not provide tax or legal advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as such. The opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security. It is only intended to provide education about the financial industry. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. Any past performance discussed during this program is no guarantee of future results. Any indices referenced for comparison are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. As always please remember investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital; please seek advice from a licensed professional.

    Brio Financial Group is a registered investment adviser. SEC Registration does not constitute an endorsement of Brio by the SEC nor does it indicate that Brio has attained a particular level of skill or ability. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Brio Financial Group and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. No advice may be rendered by Brio Financial Group unless a client service agreement is in place.

    Brandon Miller, CFP®, is a financial consultant at Brio Financial Group in San Francisco, specializing in helping LGBT individuals and families plan and achieve their financial goals.

    Money Matters
    Published on March 23, 2023