Please Don’t Delay

by: Ben Atwater, Partner & Co-Founder, Atwater Malick and Hospice & Community Care Planned Giving Council member

As a financial advisor, barely a month goes by where I don’t see a health emergency, a death, a diagnosis, a family emergency or some other unfortunate event that befalls someone directly or indirectly related to my financial planning firm. This is the law of large numbers phenomenon, but in a business as personal as wealth management, I see clients’ struggles firsthand.

Why the depressing opening paragraph? Because it’s urgent that I get your attention.

Maintaining an up-to-date estate plan is vital but it isn’t necessarily complicated. At its most basic level it includes three documents: a will, a healthcare power of attorney and a durable general power of attorney. These documents ensure that your named powers of attorney, guardians, trustees, executors, etc. are current. You don’t want a former best friend who is now a mortal enemy to be your child’s guardian or your executor.

The estate planning process also involves updating beneficiary designations on your qualified retirement plans at work, your IRAs, your pensions and your life insurance policies. Anything with a beneficiary designation can be a non-probate asset and shouldn’t pass according to your will. Rather, the designation controls where the funds go. If you leave the designations blank, then the assets will pass through your estate and may receive highly unfavorable tax treatment.

If you have dependent family members or other obligations, make sure your life insurance planning is up-to-date.

Communicating with family members and other loved ones, and documenting these communications, is absolutely vital. The smallest, most seemingly insignificant items or issues, can lead to family strife if you don’t properly communicate your wishes and your plans to family members.

Above and beyond your finances, Hospice & Community Care provides a document to help you outline how you want your family members and others to care for you. Pre-planning your funeral is also a very good idea because, at difficult times, families are overburdened and find the logistical and emotional challenges of a funeral to sometimes cause even further strain.

Hospice & Community Care is here to help you. The organization’s Planned Giving Council comprised of volunteers who are experts in their respective fields of law, accounting, wealth management and insurance are available to help guide Hospice supporters to the appropriate advice. To learn more, contact Amy Lewis, Hospice & Community Care’s Director of Philanthropy at or (717) 735-8729.

Ben Atwater is a Partner and Co-Founder of Atwater Malick, a Lancaster, PA-based fiduciary and fee-only financial planning firm.  Ben, along with Matt Malick, are the authors of The Disciplined Contrarian, which they published in the Fall of 2017.  Ben volunteers extensively with Community Benefit Organizations in Lancaster.

Save the Date!

Women’s Financial, Estate and Retirement Planning Forum
Saturday, October 5, 2019
8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Hospice & Community Care, 685 Good Drive, Lancaster

Community Financial and Estate Planning Forum
Saturday, November 2, 2019
Hospice & Community Care, 685 Good Drive, Lancaster

Saturday, November 9
The Ann B. Barshinger Hospice Center, 235 St. Charles Way, Suite 250, York