How to Construct a Complete Estate Plan
Estate planning traditionally focuses on your financial assets.
But when you think about what matters most, is it your car, home, or bank account? Of course not. The only reason those assets have any value is you’ve assigned meaning to them. You hope, for example, when you give money to your children, it will be used to improve their lives. Although this outcome can be difficult to direct.
What non-financial things matter most to you? What pieces of yourself do you want as a part of your heritage?
When you organize your will, trust, and other legal documents, don’t forget about your memories, values, traditions, and beliefs.
Your assets can be broken into three main categories:
- Character Assets: Your meaningful relationships, values, health, spirituality, heritage, purpose, life experiences, talents, and plans for giving.
- Intellectual Assets: Your business systems, alliances, ideas, skills, traditions, reputation, and wisdom.
- Financial Assets: Your physical wealth, investments, and possessions.
Financial assets are passed along through proper structuring — such as a trust or a foundation. These structures range from the simple to the complex, depending on your level of affluence and asset protection or tax planning goals. Rarely are your character and intellectual assets taken into account. Often, these assets are lost simply because there is not a structured way to identify them and pass them along.
Passing on non-financial assets is what my team and I specialize in. We’ve found that the process of structuring your character and intellectual assets to pass on to your heirs needs to be just as thought out as the process of passing on your financial assets.
Non-Financial Estate Planning Essentials
Our Meaning Legacy™ planning process focuses on seven essential components for passing on your non-financial assets to your loved ones. They are:
- Beliefs, Values, and Vision: Your personal principles and shared family philosophy.
- Master Stories: Experiences that have shaped your life.
- Systems for Living: Skills and information your family needs to thrive.
- Experiential Bonds: Planned family traditions, outings, and bonding activities.
- Family Heritage: Where your family came from.
- Community Impact: Your vision for giving back to the world.
- Public Presence: How you are perceived by the public both off-line and online.
Whether you hire a firm to help you out or decide to document these components on your own, be sure your non-financial assets receive just as much attention as your financial ones. Your family will thank you.
In his book Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper, Barry K. Baines, MD wrote, “When my father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1990, I asked him to write a letter about the things he valued. About a month before he died, my dad gave me two handwritten pages in which he spoke about the importance of being honest, getting a good education, helping people in need, and remaining loyal to the family. That letter — his ethical will — meant more to me than any material possession he could have bequeathed.”
I’ve heard many people say something similar. Whether it’s a letter from a loved one, an old journal, or a film, these memories, words of encouragement, and expressions of love — in the exact words of a respected family member — connect at such a deep level that they become a treasure to the family.
Related: Finding Purpose Through Disaster
The following questions will give you an idea about what character and intellectual assets you should include as a part of your estate plan.
Assessing Your Current Status:
- Do you have photos, videos, letters, or other memorabilia that needs to be digitally archived, organized, and sent to family members?
- Do you know about your family tree and ancestors? Have you archived this information somewhere so your family can access it?
- Have you recorded your favorite memories, either via audio, video, or in writing?
- What tasks or skills does your family need to learn in order to pick up where you left off or live productive lives? (e.g. money management, household tasks, business systems, health guidelines, and so on.)
- Do you have a philanthropic vision? Have you gotten your family involved in charity work or giving to the community? How have you documented these activities?
- Do you have a family mission, a coat of arms, family rules, or other family systems you’d like to document?
- What kinds of experiences or traditions have you planned for your family? How do you plan to make them meaningful? How do you document them?
- When you google yourself, do you like what comes up? Are you interested in creating an online presence to encourage your family or convey a message (such as your support of a charity or to spread your love of gardening)? What kind of man or woman would you like to be publicly known as? In a world where privacy is disappearing, your online legend will become what you are known for to your friends and acquaintances as well as your family.
Once you’ve considered these questions, the next step is coming up with a plan to package up this information in a way that’s valuable to your family. Too much information can lead to a legacy of minutia. Filtering what gets passed on often becomes the most important part of the process.
Here’s Why Bitcoin Won’t Replace Gold So Easily
What a week it was.
First and foremost, I’d like to acknowledge the horrific mass shooting that occurred in Las Vegas, the deadliest in modern American history. On behalf of everyone at U.S. Global Investors, I extend my sincerest and most heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families.
The memory of the shooting was still fresh in people’s minds during last Tuesday’s Hollywood premiere of Blade Runner 2049, which nixed the usual red carpet and other glitz in light of the tragedy. Before the film, producers shared poignant words, saying that in times such as these, the arts are crucial now more than ever.
I had the distinct privilege to attend the premiere. My good friend Frank Giustra, whose production company Thunderbird Entertainment owns a stake in the Blade Runner franchise, was kind enough to invite me along. Despite the somber mood—a pivotal scene in the film even takes place in an irradiated Las Vegas—I thought Blade Runner 2049 was spectacular. Even if you’re not a fan of the original 1982 film, it’s still worth experiencing in theaters. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s synth-heavy score is especially haunting.
CNET recently published an interesting piece examining the accuracy of future tech as depicted in the original Blade Runner, from androids to flying cars to off-world travel read the article here.
Still in the Early Innings of Cryptocurrencies
Speaking of the future, I spoke on the topic of the blockchain last week at the Subscriber Investment Summit in Vancouver. My presentation focused on the future of mining—not just of gold and precious metals but also cryptocurrencies.
Believe it or not, there are upwards of 2,100 digital currencies being traded in the world right now, with a combined market cap of nearly $150 billion, according to Coinranking.com.
Obviously not all of these cryptos will survive. We’re still in the early innings. Last month I compared this exciting new digital world to the earliest days of the dotcom era, and just as there were winners and losers then, so too will there be winners and losers today. Although bitcoin and Ethereum appear to be the frontrunners right now, recall that only 20 years ago AOL and Yahoo! were poised to dominate the internet. How times have changed!
It will be interesting to see which coins emerge as the “Amazon” and “Google” of cryptocurrencies.
For now, Ethereum has some huge backers. The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), according to its website, seeks to “learn from and build upon the only smart contract supporting blockchain currently running in real-world production—Ethereum.” The EEA includes several big-name financial and tech firms such as Credit Suisse, Intel, Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase, whose own CEO, Jamie Dimon, knocked cryptos a couple of weeks ago.
To learn more about the blockchain and cryptocurrencies, watch this engaging two-minute video.
Will Bitcoin Replace Gold?
Lately I’ve been seeing more and more headlines asking whether cryptos are “killing” gold. Would the gold price be higher today if massive amounts of money weren’t flowing into bitcoin? Both assets, after all, are sometimes favored as safe havens. They’re decentralized and accepted all over the world, 24 hours a day. Transactions are anonymous. Supply is limited.
But I don’t think for a second that cryptocurrencies will ever replace gold, for a number of reasons. For one, cryptos are strictly forms of currency, whereas gold has many other time-tested applications, from jewelry to dentistry to electronics.
Unlike cryptos, gold doesn’t require electricity to trade. This makes it especially useful in situations such as hurricane-ravished Puerto Rico, where 95 percent of people are reportedly still without power. Right now the island’s economy is cash-only. If you have gold jewelry or coins, they can be converted into cash—all without electricity or WiFi.
Finally, gold remains one of the most liquid assets, traded daily in well-established exchanges all around the globe. Every day, some £13.8 billion, or $18 billion, worth of physical gold are traded in London alone, according to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). The cryptocurrency market, although expanding rapidly, is not quite there yet.
I will admit, though, that bitcoin is energizing some investors, especially millennials, in ways that gold might have a hard time doing. The proof is all over the internet. You can find a number of TED Talks on bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, but to my knowledge, none is available on gold investing. YouTube is likewise bursting at the seams with videos on cryptos.
Bitcoin is up 350 percent for the year, Ethereum an unbelievable 3,600 percent. Gold, meanwhile, is up around 10 percent. Producers, as measured by the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index, have gained 11.5 percent in 2017, 23 percent since its 52-week low in December 2016.
Look Past the Negativity to Find the Good News
The news is filled with negative headlines, and sometimes it’s challenging to stay positive. Take Friday’s jobs report. It showed that the U.S. lost 33,000 jobs in September, the first month in seven years that this happened. A weak report was expected because of Hurricane Irma, but no one could have guessed the losses would be this deep.
The jobs report wasn’t all bad news, however. For one, the decline is very likely temporary. Beyond that, a record 4.88 million Americans who were previously sitting out of the labor force found work last month. This helped the unemployment rate fall to 4.2 percent, a 16-year low.
There’s more that supports a stronger U.S. economy. As I shared with you last week, the Manufacturing ISM Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to a 13-year high in September, indicating rapid expansion in the manufacturing industry. Factory orders were up during the month. Auto sales were up. Oil has stayed in the relatively low $50-a-barrel range, which is good for transportation and industrials, especially airlines. Small-cap stocks, as measured by the Russell 2000 Index, continue to climb above their 50-day and 200-day moving averages as excitement over tax reform intensifies.
These are among the reasons why I remain bullish.
One final note: Speaking on tax reform, Warren Buffett told CNBC last week that he’s waiting to sell assets until he knows the plan will go through. “I would feel kind of silly if I realized $1 billion worth of gains and paid $350 million in tax on it if I just waited a few months and would have paid $250 million,” he said.
It’s a fair comment, and I imagine other like-minded, forward-thinking investors, buyers and sellers will also wait to make huge transactions if they can help it. Tax reform isn’t a done deal, but I think it has a much better chance of being signed into law than a health care overhaul.
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