It’s a straightforward concept: if you have a will, you have the ability to determine what you want to happen to your possessions when you pass away. Your heirs will have less stress and will know that you cared enough about them to take care of this important matter.
You may not think that Abe Lincoln, Bob Marley and Prince have anything at all in common. Well, Prince and Bob Marley were great musical forces. But Abe Lincoln?
None of the three had a will.
Kiplinger’s article, “4 Strategies to Avoid an Estate-Planning Mishap,” surmises that their reasoning was probably just the same as it is for most people. They were too busy with everyday life. Besides, who wants to think about being dead? It’s easier to be busy, but forgetting to have a will makes life for your heirs considerably more complicated and more stressful.
People don’t realize how much can be accomplished in a very short time with an experienced estate planning attorney. Similarly, they also don’t understand the issues that can pop up if they don't have a plan in place.
While you may hear about income and investments at every turn these days, you may not hear about important topics like taxes, health care, asset protection and leaving a legacy for your family, friends, and charities.
Be certain that you’ve made every effort to express how you want your assets distributed when you die. Take a look at these four basic strategies and discuss them with an experienced estate planning attorney to help you avoid an estate planning mishap.
- Get that will in place. A will directs your executor about your wishes and spells out how you want your assets distributed when you pass away.
- Consider a living trust. This can protect your assets and can help your estate avoid probate. While you may believe you don't need a living trust, it can help make certain your assets are managed according to your wishes even in the event that you’re no longer able to manage them on your own. In addition, you can sign a health care directive and power of attorney so those you trust can make decisions about your physical and financial well-being. Finally, trusts are not public court records so your affairs remain private.
- Title your accounts appropriately. Get that trust in place or set up a "transfer on death" designation. This lets assets pass directly to the beneficiaries named by the owner. Also, make sure you’ve properly named the beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries on IRAs and other tax-qualified accounts.
- Think about life insurance. A policy is used to provide a death benefit for your family and can augment the legacy you pass down. It can help cover final expenses—like funeral, burial and medical bills.
So you aren’t a world-famous musician or an important American president. Think of this as your opportunity to do one thing better than Abe, Bob or Prince. Meet with an experienced estate planning attorney and prepare an estate plan.
Reference: Kiplinger’s (August 2016) “4 Strategies to Avoid an Estate-Planning Mishap”