Leaving a Loving Legacy

Getting Started

Today, two-thirds of women identify themselves as the primary decision-maker in their home. Many of these women are also the breadwinner, earning 62% of the household income.1

If you find yourself among this growing group of women, you play a vital role in managing your family’s finances–from overseeing the household budget, to paying the mortgage, to determining where to invest your retirement assets. But imagine for a moment, what would happen if you couldn’t continue to play this role due to death or sudden incapacitation.

A sobering thought indeed.

Most of us prefer not to think about the inevitable passing of those we love, let alone ourselves. This may be why only 33% of women between the ages of 45 and 54 have drafted a will.2 Yet failure to focus on basic estate planning activities can often create family conflict, cause the dissipation of assets you’ve spent a lifetime building, or result in the payment of taxes that might have been avoided.

While the loss or incapacity of a family member is always traumatic, the emotional turmoil is often magnified by the resulting confusion of incomplete or outdated information.

One of the most important things you can do in leaving a loving legacy for your family is to help them understand what is important about you . . . and important to you.

Getting Started

A good first step is to gather critical information about your family finances and take an inventory of your legal documents. It’s important to know what you own, what you owe, and how you have protected yourself and your family against certain risks. Regular reviewing and updating of this list will help you stay current on your financial situation.

A Family Records Organizer may provide a system for you to gather important documents. This comprehensive tool collects all of your family’s vital financial information and keeps it organized in one place for easy access and updating. In the event of a catastrophe or serious illness, someone you’ve chosen will be able to immediately access timely information, including:

• Personal information, including Social Security numbers

• Financial statements

• Retirement benefits

• Tax information

• Liabilities (mortgage and other loan documents)

• Legal documents (will, power of attorney, etc.)

• Insurance policies

• Real estate documents (deeds, titles, etc.)

• Government benefits

• Health and medical information

• Beneficiaries

• Philanthropic causes

In addition to organizing all of these details about your life, the Family Records Organizer answers important questions:

• What financial records should you keep?

• How long should you hold onto documents?

• What is the best way to organize your important papers?

• What should–and shouldn’t–go into your safe deposit box?

• How can you make sure you family has access to your records in case of an emergency?

This process helps you assemble personal information, essential documents, and clear letters of instruction to key individuals–all in one place. By providing your loved ones with clarity of your desires, you help them avoid conflict and eliminate common struggles that could result in costly, and often, irrevocable mistakes.


Power of the Purse, Center for Talent Innovation, 2014.

“Americans’ Ostrich Approach to Estate Planning,” Forbes, April 8, 2014.

National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, accessed March 2016, unclaimed.org

If you’d like to learn more, please contact John Harris at 366.3426.

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The opinions expressed by the authors are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Morgan Stanley. The information and data in the article or publication has been obtained from sources outside of Morgan Stanley and Morgan Stanley makes no representations or guarantees as to the accuracy or completeness of information or data from sources outside of Morgan Stanley. Neither the information provided nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation by Morgan Stanley with respect to the purchase or sale of any security, investment, strategy or product that may be mentioned.

John Harris may only transact business, follow-up with individualized responses, or render personalized investment advice for compensation, in states where he is registered or excluded or exempted from registration. www.morganstanleyfa.com/john.harris/

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