Dispersing Your Assets As You See Fit and to Whom You Want

Most Americans have lived a life of self-determination in their pursuit of happiness. They’ve imposed their will in everyday decisions. So it’s a cultural curiosity most Americans live without a will or the protection of their assets through the use of trusts. The fact is, without a written will or trust document, someone else will control your assets, child guardianship and health directives.

End-of-life planning is an issue of asserting your will and controlling the dispersion of your assets in the most economical way possible. Handing it over to the decision-making process of the state or the court—where the intervention of professionals, who are strangers in control the disposition of your assets, child custody of minors or health care directives if you’re incapacitated—is a frightening prospect. Watch the interview with estate planning attorney Elizabeth Westby on the importance of end-of-life planning.

Dying without a will and asset trust protection can inadvertently hurt relationships between family and friends. It can eliminate ongoing gifts and contributions to charities you desire to go into perpetuity. It can leave the state with the awesome power of heath directives in case of incapacitation.

With a well-laid plan, you can dictate from the grave your desires and secure confidence knowing you’ve anticipated the vast majority of end-of-life items and avoided most of the contested issues that plague those without a will and trust documents.

End-of-life planning sends a set of expectations to beneficiaries that asset distribution and child guardianship has been predetermined. It takes away the often-painful decision-making process of health care conversations about ending life with dignity.

The baby boomers have been called the sandwich generation as they oversee the care for their parents and the college tuition for their children, and sometimes act as guardians for their grandchildren. Many boomers have sacrificed their own retirement stability by funding the preceding and succeeding generations. Most of them do not have a retirement strategy and even more do not have an end-of-life plan that maps out the transfer of their assets to their beneficiaries.

Even financial advisors, who quarterback their clients’ finances, are now teaming up with estate planning attorneys to address the proper transfer of assets and health directives. Assembling a team of professionals is the first step in taking responsibility and control of your future as well as the future of your family, friends and charities.

Syndicated financial columnist Steve Savant interviews estate-planning attorney Elizabeth Westby on the basics of estate planning, creating a will and installing appropriate trusts. Right on the Money is a weekly financial talk show for consumers, distributed as video press releases to 280 media outlets nationwide.