Your Will Isn’t the End of Your Estate Planning
A Will is Just the Starting Point for a Good Estate Plan

Your Will Isn’t the End of Your Estate Planning

Even if your financial life is pretty simple, you should have a will. However, there’s more work to be done than just doing a will. Assets must be properly titled, so that assets are distributed as intended upon death. Having a will is just a start.

Forbes’ recent article, “For Estate Plan To Work As Intended, Assets Must Be Properly Titled” notes that with the exception of the choice of potential guardians for children, the most important function of a will is to make certain that the transfer of assets to beneficiaries is the way you intended.

However, not all assets are disposed of by a will—they pass to beneficiaries regardless of the intentions stated in the will. Your will only controls the disposition of assets that fall within your probated estate.

An example of when a designated beneficiary controls the disposition of a financial asset is life insurance. Other examples are retirement accounts, such as a 401(k) or an IRA. When there’s a named beneficiary, assets will be distributed accordingly, which may be different than the intentions stated in a will.

The title of real estate controls its disposition. When property is jointly owned, how it is titled determines if the decedent’s interest in the property passes to the surviving partner, becomes part of the decedent’s estate, or passes to a third party. Titling of jointly owned property can be complicated in community property states.

In the same light, a revocable trust is an inter vivos or living trust that’s created during the grantor’s life, as part of an estate plan.

Such a trust can be used to ensure privacy, avoid the expenses and delays in the probate process and provide for continuity of asset management. A critical part of the planning is that the grantor must transfer (or retitle) assets to the trust.

Wills are very important in estate planning. To ensure that your estate plan fulfills your intentions, talk to an estate planning attorney about the proper titling of your assets.

Find out if a living trust gives you a better estate planning solution than just a will.

Reference: Forbes (May 20, 2019) “For Estate Plan To Work As Intended, Assets Must Be Properly Titled”

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The Estate Planning Goal of What To Do with Mom’s House
What To Do With Mom's House After She Dies

The Estate Planning Goal of What To Do with Mom’s House

It’s a not uncommon estate planning objective for the surviving parent to leave the family home to her children. At the parent’s death, estate planning questions often arise concerning how long the children have before they must sell it or change the deed. What if one sibling wants to live in the home for a while, before it is sold?

nj.com’s article on this subject asks, “Mom died and left us her home. What do we have to do next?” According to the article, the executor is tasked with gathering the assets, paying the debts and taxes (if any) and then distributing the assets, in accordance with the parent’s will.

If the home was in the parent’s name alone, it makes the property a probate asset that’s passed according to the will. In addition, if the will provides that under the residuary clause everything that’s left is to be distributed equally among the children, it will give the executor discretion to liquidate and then make the distributions.

There also may be a specific provision in the will covering the home.

There’s no specific timeline as to when the property has to be transferred. However, the executor is required to act prudently and in a reasonably timely manner.

In this situation, the home will most likely be sold. It is also the executor’s responsibility to pay the bills associated with the home, until a buyer is found.

If one child wants to live there, and it’s agreeable to everyone, make sure that she doesn’t refuse to leave, when it comes time to sell.

Note that landlord-tenant laws protect a tenant and may create an issue. The executor may want to talk with an attorney to determine what steps are necessary to protect against the tenant refusing to leave.

Learn how good estate planning lessens the chances of children fighting.

Reference: nj.com (April 1, 2019) “Mom died and left us her home. What do we have to do next?”

Use a Trust to Protect an Inheritance
Use a Trust to Protect a Loved One's Inheritance

Use a Trust to Protect an Inheritance

A recent Kiplinger article asks: “Is Your Beneficiary Ready to Receive Money?” Should you use a trust to protect a loved one’s inheritance? Absolutely. A trust is a common tool used to protect an inheritance for a beneficiary who is not ready to handle it. Not everyone will be mentally or emotionally prepared for the money you wish to leave them. Here are some things to consider:

The Beneficiary’s Age. Children under 18 years old cannot sign legal contracts. Without some planning, the court will take custody of the funds on the child’s behalf. This could occur via custody accounts, protective orders or conservatorships. If this happens, there’s little control over how the money will be used. The conservatorship will usually end and the funds be paid to the child, when they become an adult. Giving significant financial resources to a young adult who’s not ready for the responsibility, often ends in disaster. Work with an estate planning attorney to find a solution to avoid this result.

The Beneficiary’s Lifestyle. There are many other circumstances for which you need to consider and plan. These include the following:

  • A beneficiary with a substance abuse or gambling problem;
  • A beneficiary and her inheritance winds up in an abusive relationship;
  • A beneficiary is sued;
  • A beneficiary is going through a divorce;
  • A beneficiary has a disability; and
  • A beneficiary who’s unable to manage assets.

All of these issues can be addressed, with the aid of an estate planning attorney. A testamentary trust can be created to make certain that minors (and adults who just may not be ready) don’t get money too soon, while also making sure they have funds available to help with school, health care and life expenses.

Who Will Manage the Trust? Every trust must have a trustee. Find a person who is willing to do the work. You can also engage a professional trust company for larger trusts. The trustee will distribute funds, only in the ways you’ve instructed. Conditions can include getting an education, or using the money for a home or for substance abuse rehab.

Estate Plan Review. Review your estate plan after major life events or every few years. Talk to a qualified estate planning attorney to make the process easier and to be certain that your money goes to the right people at the right time.

Learn how to use a trust to protect a child’s inheritance.

Reference: Kiplinger (April 1, 2019) “Is Your Beneficiary Ready to Receive Money?”

Resources: Fidelity Investments – What Is A Trust?