Whether you are a newlywed couple, just starting your family, have adult children, have no children, recently retired, or have experienced a recent change in your family or finances, it is important to have an estate plan, and to review it often. A good rule of thumb is to review your Will and estate plan every three (3) years. While it is never a fun topic to discuss, establishing your estate plan gives you peace of mind knowing that your wishes, directives, and desires are known to your family and friends should the inevitable happen.
A Will, otherwise known as your “Last Will and Testament,” is an important piece of any estate plan. If a valid Will does not exist upon your passing, your property will pass according to statute, this is called intestate succession. It is important to understand how the statutes in your home state dispose of your belongings if you do not have a valid Will, and what terms can be included in a Will to make sure your own personal wishes are honored instead. A Will is a legal document which sets forth your wishes regarding who will get your money, personal or real property, and in circumstances with minor children, you may name a guardian and conservator to care for your child. Within a Will you can also name your Personal Representative, formerly called an “executor”, who will be responsible for overseeing that your wishes as stated in your Will are fulfilled.
Many may believe that a Will is all you need, but often there are a multitude of estate planning considerations you may not have thought of, such as a Trust, a Durable Power of Attorney in the case of incapacity, Beneficiaries on Bank Accounts or Insurance Policies, Health Care Directives, title and deed language for real property ownership, etc. that will all factor into how your loved ones are provided and cared for, as well as how your Will should be drafted to ensure that your wishes are memorialized.
Trusts are another common tool used in estate planning. A trust is an arrangement between a settlor (the person funding the trust), a trustee (person managing the assets of the trust) and a beneficiary (the person receiving the assets of the trust). Trusts are complex estate planning tools that have a number of different uses, and can be established in a variety of ways. As a general rule a trust is created as a means to safeguard some asset, whether personal property, liquid assets (money), or real property (a home or land), for the benefit of another. Some common reasons trusts are established, instead of executing a Will or as a companion planning tool to a Will, is that a trust is 1) private 2) avoids probate court and court fees 3) saves time 4) the assets are more quickly available to the beneficiary 5) in some circumstances reduces inheritance taxes 6) to protect assets from a spendthrift beneficiary 7) better control of the assets, including limiting or allowing access to the funds during the settlor’s lifetime and/or 8) to provide for specific types of financial support, such as education costs, health care costs, reasonable living expenses, etc.
It is never too early or too late to discuss estate planning, draft, review, and revise your estate plan and Wills. At Schmeltzer & Bostic, we consider your needs and goals to help you to develop a plan and consider options all of your options to help develop a plan that works for you and your family. Schmeltzer & Bostic provides you with Wills and estate planning services to help you meet your legal needs for the care of your family and peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be honored.