If you think estate planning is only for the very rich, you’re wrong.
Taxes certainly are higher for large estates but they are not the only reason for estate planning. Here are seven more, some which may be just as important to you:
- To plan who receives what size share of your assets.
- To decide how and when your beneficiaries will receive their inheritance or income.
- To decide who will manage your estate (executor, trustee, etc.) and be responsible for distribution of the assets.
- To reduce estate administrative expenses and delays.
- To select a guardian for your children.
- To provide financial management for funds that may pass to grandchildren.
- To provide for the orderly continuance or sale of a family business or real estate investment property.
If you do not have a plan, state laws will determine who inherits your assets and when they receive them. The court will appoint a guardian for your children and the administrator for your estate. Your estate could wind up paying substantial – and unnecessary – taxes and administrative costs.
Most people feel strongly about who should inherit their assets and when. However, they are often less sure about what to consider as they select an executor and trustees. Your executor is your personal representative after your death and is responsible for such functions as:
* Administering your estate and distributing assets to your beneficiaries.
* Paying the estate expenses and any outstanding debts.
* Ensuring that all life insurance, employee benefits and retirement plan proceeds are received.
* Filing the necessary tax returns and paying the appropriate federal and state taxes.
In short, your executor administers your will. When these duties are met, the job ends. However, if your will creates trusts to accomplish more long-term goals, you need a trustee. Your trustee is responsible for managing the trust’s assets and ensuring the beneficiaries are provided for in accordance with provisions of the trust. Individuals are often torn between choosing an individual as the executor or trustee and naming a corporate entity, such as a bank. Many people name both as executors or co-trustees. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Corporate executor and/or trustee, advantages.
* Specialist in handling estates and trusts.
* No emotional bias. Impartial and usually free of conflicts of interest.
* Never moves or goes on vacation.
* Never dies or gets sick.
* Usually has little familiarity with the family.
* Administrative fees may be higher.
* Rarely will continue any family-owned business.
* Rarely maintains real estate requiring management.
Individual executor and/or trustee, advantages:
* More familiar with the family.
* Administrative fees may be lower.
* May be familiar with family business interests.
* Probably not experienced in handling estates and trusts.
* Could have an emotional bias.
* May not be impartial toward all heirs.
* Could have schedule conflicts.
* Could be incapacitated at times.
Consider a living trust
A living trust (also known as a self-declaration or revocable trust) is a legal document that resembles a will. It contains instructions for managing your assets should you become disabled and directions for the distribution of your assets upon death.
Living trusts have two major benefits. Assets in a living trust do not go through probate, which is the process of proving and administering a will under the jurisdiction of a court. It can be a time-consuming and potentially expensive process. It also subjects your private financial affairs to public scrutiny. All probate records are public documents!
A living trust provides a perfect vehicle for managing your assets in the event of a disability. While you are alive and well, you can act as your own trustee. In the event of disability or death, the successor trustee that you selected takes over.
Estate planning may include establishing a lifetime gifting program, making the most of the unified credit or considering charitable trusts.
Before you sit down with an estate planning attorney, take the time to get educated. One book that you will find very helpful is J.K. Lasser’s “New Rules for Estate and Tax Planning.”
If you are not confident all is in order, seek professional advice to alleviate potential problems down the road.
Does your life insurance policy offer this benefit at no additional cost:
How the Rider Works
A portion of your policy death benefit may be paid to help you and your family cope with the strain of a chronic illness if a U.S. licensed healthcare practitioner who is not the insured, policyholder, beneficiary or relative thereof, has certified in the last 12 months that the insured:
- is unable to perform two of the six recognized activities of daily living (bathing, continence, dressing, eating, toileting, and transferring)without substantial assistance for a period of at least 90 consecutive days, or;
- has a severe cognitive impairment that requires substantial supervision by another person to protect the insured from threats to health and safety for a period of at least 90 consecutive days
To receive benefits under the rider, the healthcare practitioner must also certify that continuous care in an eligible facility or at home is expected to be required for the remainder of the insured’s life.
Want to do a Life Insurance Review give our office a call at 215-886-2122.