Many people think estate planning is something only the very wealthy need, but if you own a home or vacation property, cars, jewelry, cash (basically all your possessions) then it is very important to consider how you want your affairs settled upon your passing. Otherwise you could place a long-lasting and costly tax liability on your loved ones at a very difficult time.
Reducing the tax burden during the asset transfer to heirs can reduce much or even eliminate federal and state estate taxes. Charitable giving, such as creating a private foundation, can be implemented to share your values in life and well beyond. For families, 529 college savings plans offer the added potential for helping to reduce estate taxes while giving children a gift that lasts a lifetime. Working with a Financial Planner, along with a client’s legal team, can help decrease the income tax the beneficiaries pay as well.
Coordinating your legacy planning and creating trusts with your Financial Planner and estate attorney may eliminate potential squabbling among family members about who will be in charge. It could also prevent the need for a costly court battle. The probate process can be complex, drawn out and most definitely, prevent a family’s privacy. In the long run, estate planning can save money and aggravation and is well worth the cost.
Instructions for your care if you become disabled, along with naming guardians or inheritance managers is critical to protect the assets you’ve accumulated in your lifetime. Life and/or disability insurance can provide replacement income for those that rely on your income.
But one of the greatest benefits of having an estate plan is it ensures you will pass on both your life values as well as your tangible valuables.
Start with a Will… Without a will the state will determine what happens to your property and assets. It is even more imperative to create a will if you have no living relatives but do have intentions about the distribution of your estate. The same is true if you are unmarried with a long-term partner. Without a will the state will not acknowledge that relationship.
And then Add a Living Will… End of life medical decisions will only be honored if the patient has created a Living Will. This directive, aka power of attorney, is the only legal means someone has to make sure their wishes are followed if they are unable to personally state them.
What is a Trust? It is a legal document that holds, distributes and controls the administering of your assets either while living or passed on.
Don’t Forget to Change the Title of your Trust… Investors can go through the time and expense of setting up a trust but not change the title/registrations of their accounts to the trust. Without that one important step the trust can be nullified, and the settlement processed through a will and/or probate which defeats the purpose of the trust.
Legacy Plans are not Static… Life is filled with change such as health issues, births, divorce, relocation, retirement, death and even new tax codes. All of these factors can affect the intentions of a trust and should be reviewed on a regular basis to make sure the trust remains accurate and serving the intentions of the trust owner(s).
Help your Attorney Help You… Before you meet with your lawyer, decide who will be the primary and secondary heirs to your estate. Also provide the name of the competent person who will be administering your estate. In addition, bring the following documents: wills, living wills, list of investment and retirement accounts, life insurance policies along with titles and deeds.