Festive celebration roasted turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas

Before You Pass the Turkey

Many advisors send cards and notes of thanks to their clients just before Thanksgiving. This year, you may want to send a version of this letter to your senior clients and/or their adult children. Please have it reviewed by your own compliance officer for any edits or disclosures they may require.

Dear [Client Name],

Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Thursday in November, marks the official start of the winter holiday season which typically runs through the end of December or into early January.

It’s a time when families gather for catching up, sharing traditional meals and expressing gratitude. In the U.S., families may travel hundreds of miles to sit down together and enjoy a meal that typically includes roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy and/or sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie.

With most, if not all, of your family together for the holidays, we encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to talk about what your family needs to know should something happen to the parents or grandparents.

Here are some topics you might want to review and discuss with your family this year at holiday time.

  1. Where is everything? If you have organized your important documents and other information in a financial operating manual or binder; a paper, online or combination file or data vault; or some other type of system, this might be a good time to explain what you have done, where it is located, and who has access.
  2. How are things titled? Asset or account titling takes precedence over estate documents, such as wills and trusts. That means that if Mary has an account titled jointly with Bill, as joint tenants with right of survivorship (JTWROS), and then Mary dies, Bill will inherit the assets without regard for what might be in Mary’s will. Or if Mary established a trust but failed to have the account retitled in the name of the trust, the trust’s provisions won’t apply to these assets.
  3. Who are the beneficiaries? For certain accounts, named beneficiaries also take precedence over estate documents. Primary and contingent beneficiaries can be named for most retirement accounts, annuities, and life insurance policies. Other accounts can be set up as Pay-on-Death (POD) or Transfer-on-Death (TOD) which is very similar to naming beneficiaries. It’s important to have beneficiaries updated whenever one of them predeceases the owner or when there is a relationship change due to marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child.
  4. To whom have you given Power of Attorney (POA), and what does that mean? A power of attorney is a legal document that gives an individual or organization authority to act on your behalf for specified (limited POA) or all (full POA) legal or financial matters. Having established powers of attorney can be extremely helpful should you become unable to manage your financial matters.
  5. Who is your trusted contact? Many financial institutions now ask clients to provide the name and contact information for someone to whom they can reach out should they become concerned that you may be the victim of financial exploitation or are experiencing diminished mental capacity. Your trusted contact is not permitted to act on your behalf, but they can reach out to your family members or others.

If you have questions on any of these topics or need help making sure that you’ve covered all your bases, let us know. Or if you’d like one of us to help facilitate a family meeting when your family members are in town for the holidays, contact us for when we might be available to provide that assistance.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

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