Today we dive into the basic elements of estate planning (wills, trusts, and more). Read on to learn how to get started!
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?
-Talking Heads, “Once In A Lifetime”
The lyrics from this song from the 80’s seem all too familiar. As we get older, time seems to move faster and faster. Having a basic estate plan to direct what happens when you die or seems far off when we are younger in our 20’s and 30’s, which leads to procrastination.
The best time to do estate planning (e.g., will, trust, and related documents)
The years start rolling by and before we know it, suddenly we have an automobile, a house, a wife or husband, savings, valuable possessions, retirement assets, and children—and no estate plan in place. Events of the last few years have shown us that nothing is certain, so we want to take advantage of a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to do estate planning while we are clear-minded and healthy.
Without a will, the probate process is expensive (time and cost)
Failing to have an estate plan may not necessarily be a disaster if you want your possessions to flow first to your spouse, and then to your children, since states have Intestate laws that will decide what happens to your estate without a will, and this is the general framework that most States follow. However, this will happen through the probate process which can be a long (and expensive) process that we want to minimize both as a time and money expense.
What items go through probate?
Not all assets move through probate. Items that have designated beneficiaries like IRA’s and Life Insurance policies, as well as jointly owned assets like a home or bank account, are exempt.
Items that are solely in the name of the decedent will be subject to probate, and this is where a will comes in handy.
The 3 benefits a will provides
A will provides the court with direction on where specific assets should go, will speed the probate along, and will place assets specifically where the decedent wants them.
What else does a will do?
A will does not just take care of property that passes through probate. It can also assign the executor of an estate, assign guardians to minor children, decree how creditors will be paid, and address other wishes of the testator (the owner of the will).
Trusts - Another important tool in estate planning
A will complements another important tool in estate planning, which is a trust. There are different types of trusts (which are too many to describe in any kind of detail in this article); two important ones to consider for estate planning are a revocable trust and an irrevocable trust.
There are three main players in a trust, the Grantor (creator of the trust), the Trustee(s) (entity that controls the trust), and Beneficiaries (those that reap income and property from the trust). It is possible for a Grantor to also be a Trustee and a Beneficiary, or a Trustee to be a Beneficiary as well.
What is a revocable trust?
A revocable trust is a way to place property into a trust that the Grantor retains complete control over throughout their lifetime. The Grantor can remove property from a revocable trust while they are alive. Property placed in these trusts avoids probate and is subject to direct instructions on how the property will be handled when the Grantor passes.
Other benefits of a revocable trust are they provide privacy (by avoiding probate, since the probate process is a public record), and transferring property owned in a different state, thus avoiding a second “ancillary probate.” Another feature of a revocable trust is that a successor trustee can be appointed in the trust to manage the assets contained therein if the grantor becomes incapacitated.
What is an irrevocable trust?
An irrevocable trust is different in that property is transferred into a trust while the Grantor is alive, and they surrender all control of the property— essentially becoming the property of the trust.
Items placed in an irrevocable trust are subject to gift taxes but remove the property from the Grantor’s estate and the probate process. In addition, an irrevocable trust can provide satisfaction for the Grantor, as they can see the beneficiaries enjoy this early inheritance.
Working with both an estate planning attorney and a financial planner
You will want to consult with an experienced estate planning lawyer to draft a will and trust documents, as well as formulate a tax-efficient transfer of your estate to your beneficiaries. A lawyer can also draft other important estate planning documents like powers of attorney, which assign a person or entity to manage your health and/or finances should you become mentally or physically incapacitated.
A financial planner will work with your lawyer to review and formulate the estate plan, as they are usually familiar with the assets and wishes of the client. For more questions on estate planning do not hesitate to contact us. For more information on how we can help you, please visit us at www.f5fp.com, or schedule a free consultation.
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F5 Financial is a fee-only wealth management firm with a holistic approach to financial planning, personal goals, and behavioral change. Through our F5 Process, we provide insight and tailored strategies that inspire and equip our clients to enjoy a life of significance and financial freedom.
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