Most people approach their financial planning piecemeal. They look at their portfolio every now and then. They talk to an estate planner every 10 or 20 years, though it should be more frequent. They buy their life insurance in a vacuum and never look at it again. They buy and sell homes without connecting that transaction to anything but getting a mortgage approval. They deal with the loss of a spouse or job as if it’s just another blip on the screen.
Sudden transitions do need to be dealt with in the sudden manner in which they may have appeared. But these often have deeper implications that may impact other areas of your financial life. You must resist sticking your head in the sand over your transition issue and address it in the context of your overall life, financial and personal.
The major transitions that impact people we know are retirement, sale of a business, divorce, the total disability of an adult child, loss of a business or life partner, and maybe for the lucky ones, an inheritance. Some of these are negative transitions, some are positive transitions and some can go either way. But in the case of any of them, it calls for a top to bottom review of your entire financial situation.
For inherited assets, after a brief grieving period you must assess what this inheritance means to you and perhaps more importantly, investigate whether there are any post-mortem planning opportunities to mitigate the cost or tax burden within the estate.
The loss of a spouse is never easy, whether you had time to say goodbye or it was unexpected.
If your spouse is like the pop star Prince with no estate plan, it may be exceptionally painful as you are dragged through an extended and possibly contested period of settling the estate.
But even if your spouse had a plan, this transition may require revisions to your own plan or changes in some of your beneficiary elections.
In some states, though no tax may be due, a death tax return may still be necessary to remove any state liens placed on real estate where the deceased was an owner.
In the case of divorce, much time is devoted to financial settlement of the marital assets, child custody or the future division of earnings. But most divorce attorneys do not help you address your entire list of financial issues beyond the negotiating and crafting of a settlement agreement. This ‘clean start’ is a signal that your entire financial picture needs to be re-examined.
If there is nothing else that you get from this article, understand that transitions in general require a thorough examination of everything. If you know of an upcoming transition, get on it now.
John P. Napolitano CFP, CPA is CEO of U. S. Wealth Management in Braintree, Mass. Visit JohnPNapolitano on LinkedIn or uswealthnapolitano.com. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. John Napolitano is a registered principal with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through US Financial Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. US Financial Advisors and US Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial. He can be reached at 781-849-9200.