Tackling Your To-Do’s

Living life according to the Golden Rule is basic to meaningful new year’s resolutions. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12), is bedrock reciprocity ethics. As you formulate important “to do” items for 2019, taking a leaf from an airline’s motivational rewards playbook, move from gold to platinum status. The Platinum Rule states: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them!

 Consider your role on any team. Every team has a leader or co-leader, with key people playing often different but synergistic roles. What’s your role on a family team, work or professional team, military team, committee team, spiritual or charitable team, athletic team? Given responsibilities to yourself and others, are your bases covered?

A baseball coach knows that any fielder can cover any base, but there are those with responsibility for a specific base. In the military, the base commander has responsibility for everything that happens at his or her location, with accountability moving up the chain of command to the top. With a sign on his desk in the Oval Office, President and Commander In Chief Harry S. Truman popularized “the buck stops here.”

Where are your loose ends? Are there things that if left undone would violate the Platinum Rule, leaving a mess for another person to clean up? One of the goals of living and testamentary estate planning is not leaving a loved one or someone else who depends on you a complex, frustrating, and potentially very expensive challenge. Heads up, men!!!

In general, women outlive men. That means, guys, there’s a strong statistical probability that you may be incapacitated or deceased before your spouse or other loved ones. If you have not completed comprehensive planning, left clear instructions, you’re going to leave a mess, and odds are a female will be holding the bag! As financial and life transitions planning advisors, we deal with more females than men who wrestle with incapacity or estate settlement situations. When both parents are gone, we advise far more daughters than sons.

Religious texts instruct that we never really know the date and time we will be taken from this earthly plane. According to 2016 Census data, of unmarried American residents age 18 and older, 53.2% were women, 46.8% were men. Data doesn’t indicate how many were living with a partner outside of marriage. If you are  cohabitating but not married, or married but estranged, what complications will arise if you are unable to act in your own behalf or are deceased? Who does what? Will there be a mess? Are minor children, or special needs children in the picture?

If you own a closely-held business, you are a key person in a professional or business enterprise, what’s in place to assure orderly succession and continuity if you are taken out for any reason? No one likes to think about “exits,” but being mortal, we all exit from every role, every responsibility, every position in life, sooner or later, voluntarily or involuntarily. Do you want your legacy to be a mess?

What needs to be put in place or reviewed this year? Wills, trusts, powers of attorney, advanced directive? Have you checked forms of ownership and primary and contingent beneficiary designations lately? Audited insurance policies for adequacy and performance? Insurance planning includes health, disability, long term care, life, and liability coverage. Failure to understand Umbrella Liability insurance can be an expensive wake-up-call if you, your heirs, or your company, is sued! Can creditors come after your estate? Absolutely, if planning is faulty.

Parents, your 18 plus year old children are adults under the law, even if you still support them. They need basic legal documents and other protections in place. They may be covered under your health insurance but under federal privacy laws you cannot get medical information on them or status without holding powers of attorney.

Newlyweds, formulate wills and trust provisions for newborns, including designating guardians for the bambino. Discussions of life or other types of insurance to protect surviving spouses or partners and children should be integrated into a comprehensive plan. You don’t want “the buck stops here” to apply to income streams generated by a key breadwinner.

Louise Hart, managing editor of GQ, said, “The Golden Rule of Parenting is, do unto your children as you wish your parents had done unto you!” If you have adult children, especially a daughter who will step in given death or incapacity, apply the Platinum Rule. You hate heart-wrenching situations. So will she. Make sure your planning is up-to-date and clear as to wishes. What does your go-to child need to know?


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