A retired couple from Arkansas knew they needed to prevent estate planning problems and potential conflicts for their blended family, but they were dismayed by the cost estimates from private attorneys. After discovering the benefits of Legacy Assurance Plan membership, they said they have saved money and gained peace of mind.
Legacy Assurance Plan members and fellow educators Sharon and her husband, William, began a new chapter of life together more than a decade ago.
These days, the former teachers are far removed from the clamor of the classroom as they learn new ways to enjoy retirement from their Arkansas homestead. They've also spent some time thinking about the future.
As the years have gone by and they've gotten older, Sharon and William came to realize that they, like a majority of Americans, had some unfinished business they needed to address.
“We hadn't made a will. I'm 67 and he's 70, and we knew it was something that we needed to do,” Sharon said.
From previous marriages, Sharon has a son and daughter, and William has a son. Their children, now adults, have families of their own and live out of state.
“He has children, and I have children. So, that was our main concern with a blended family - what was going to happen when we're both gone and how everything was going to be distributed between the children,” Sharon said.
They've heard the stories about how family discord can develop when there's no plan in place. They know, for example, that you don't have to be a rock star to want to avoid the same kind of drama and court fights that Prince's family has put on the public stage.
But, like most Americans, they found estate planning to be a daunting and complicated subject.
“I did not know where to start. I had talked to some friends here who had done some pricing with some private attorneys, and it was very, very expensive to have done what we needed to do,” Sharon said.
They were looking for a better option. It arrived in the form of a postcard.
“I just happened to get a card in the mail from Legacy Plan, asking if we were interested in having someone come out and talk to us,” Sharon said.
She returned the card and was contacted by a Legacy staff member who offered to have a representative come to their home, without obligation, to share some useful information about estate planning.
Although they knew they needed to draft a last will and testament, they discovered after their in-home presentation that a will is just one component of a comprehensive estate plan.
“We really did not know all that was involved until your representative came out and talked to us,” Sharon said. “Afterward, we were really glad because there were a lot of things we didn't know about and what would happen after we would pass. It was beneficial to us to get that information.”
Sharon said they learned that a comprehensive plan also addresses events that happen during one's lifetime. Their Legacy Plan representative explained that a will doesn't take effect until death. Having a will alone does nothing to address issues like incapacity or control of financial affairs and medical treatment options in the event of a debilitating illness, injury or disability.
After their initial meeting with Legacy Plan, they discovered that powers of attorney for health and finances, advance health care directives and revocable living trusts were important tools to utilize as part of their comprehensive estate plan. With membership, they obtained access to those documents after detailed consultations with a Legacy Plan network attorney.
“That was really beneficial,” Sharon said. “It's just peace of mind to know that it's in place.”
Their initial no-obligation visit wound up being an educational experience and left a positive impression on them.
“He was extremely professional and knowledgeable,” Sharon said of her Legacy Plan representative. “He answered all of our questions. He went through and made all the notes that the attorney was going to need to get the paperwork drawn up for us. He was very professional - A-1 from start to finish.”
Also, they now sleep easier knowing that with a revocable living trust, they'll spare their family the burden and lack of privacy of probate, and their loved ones will benefit from their estates with fewer delays or hassles during a time of grief.
“Neither one of us has gone through a probate experience. We knew very little about it, and it was quite an eye-opener for us when we found out some things that can be done if our stuff wasn't in a trust and protected,” Sharon said.
Another mission they've accomplished is leaving little room for disputes and discouraging outside meddling.
“Something else that was very important to us was that whoever goes first, there's no way that any of our children can come in and take something away from the surviving spouse since we are a blended family,” she said. “It does happen - even in non-blended families, but especially in blended families where there are ex-spouses involved that may have the children's ear, telling them you need to do this or you need to do that. We just wanted to make sure the surviving spouse was protected from anything that could come up from that respect.”
As a result, their plan was tailored with family harmony in mind.
“In our particular situation, we wanted to make sure it was clearly outlined and clearly stated in our will and the trust who would get what,” she said.
Another bonus, Sharon said, is the affordability of a Legacy Plan membership and its lifetime of services - and they did plenty of comparison shopping.
“It was a positive experience. The cost was much cheaper than any of the fees that we heard from the private attorneys were. We felt like we got quality service for a quality price,” Sharon said.
In the meantime, if grandkids are on the horizon or circumstances change, they plan to utilize the annual reviews offered through Legacy Plan's Assured Care program.
“We like that this is a lifetime commitment and partnership with your company and knowing that you'll be there to help our children through the process after whomever goes last,” Sharon said.