If you dither and procrastinate over creating even a straightforward will or simple trust, you put the future finances of your family and loved ones in jeopardy. You risk that the assets you have worked for a lifetime to accumulate or protect will not be distributed as you would wish.
We like to imagine that a death brings families together in grief, but that's not always the case. Sometimes, the daughter of the deceased will announce that her mother had promised her the picture that always hung on the living room wall, but then the son pipes up that the picture was promised to him. Both have memories and emotions associated with the picture, so the fight can get acrimonious fast, potentially leading to a split family in which siblings aren't communicating. The purpose of a well-drafted will is to give clarity to your wishes to make sure this doesn't happen to your family.
When you use a trust, you bypass probate, a lengthy legal process that validates your will, and you leave precise, legally binding instructions for how to distribute and potentially maintain your assets. Have a beneficiary with special needs who's ill equipped to manage the inheritance? Bequeathing complex assets that require ongoing attention after you're gone? A trust can help.
When you're making your estate plan, you can choose between many types of trusts. But whichever kind you choose, you'll have to select a trustee to oversee your and your loved ones' assets. Understandably, this important decision may give you pause. You need someone who will act in your heirs’ best interests.
When people think of trust funds, they think of large estates and dynastic wealth. For most people, the conventional wisdom goes, estate planning doesn't have to go beyond making a will. But actually, even people of modest means may find a trust an essential part of an estate plan. Below are a few scenarios when a trust becomes essential.
Making a will is the primary way to transfer ownership of your belongings after your death. You’ll often hear that a will should be a comprehensive list of your assets so that they can be found quickly and easily without your estate undergoing probate. But there are some things you can’t or shouldn’t include in your will. For example, certain types of property can best be transferred without one.
A spousal lifetime access trust (SLAT) is an irrevocable trust that authorizes the trustee to make distributions to a spouse if a need arises. It can be designed to benefit one's children, grandchildren or future generations. A lifetime gift tax and a generation-skipping tax exemption can be used to shield contributions to the trust and future appreciations from transfer taxes.
A trust can be a powerful estate-planning tool, but contrary to popular belief, trusts do not make all taxes disappear. The families who set them up still need to consider tax consequences.
Everyone wants to protect their families, even after they pass from this world. That’s the purpose of estate plans. But how do you know whether all of the elements of a good plan are in place?
Have you decided that it's time to consider estate planning and contemplate when and how to distribute your assets to your heirs? Realistically, you imagine that this process will entail a series of trade-offs to prevent emotion-laden family problems.
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