By Marc D. Langva, CFP®, Founder & CEO at WorkOptional
Do you want the black sheep in the family, or the probate court to make important financial decisions when you pass away? Probate fees, legal challenges, frozen assets & unexpected financial liabilities are some of the things you can expect if you don’t have an estate plan. Whether you are working or retired, single or married, wealthy or not, careful estate planning can benefit you and your beneficiaries in more ways than one.
Many people don’t realize how complicated the process can be if they don’t have a living will or plans for their estate. Wills and Trusts are both estate planning documents used to pass assets on to beneficiaries at death, which will help you and your family to preserve your legacy and accomplish goals even after you pass away. AND, there are a few tips YOU can do immediately. Read on….
Do I need a Will, a Trust or what? Below are some very general guidelines to help steer you in the right direction. Before you proceed, make sure to consult your financial planner and estate planning attorney to find out what plan is best for your specific situation.
Wills may be sufficient for those leaving behind smaller or less complicated estates. If you have minor or dependent children you can create a trust within your will to manage their assets and name guardianships for them. A will allows you to choose who will carry out your wishes regarding your estate (the executor or personal representative of the will). If you want to leave something to a friend, non-registered domestic partner, or organization you support, a will gives you this opportunity. A will doesn’t necessarily keep your estate out of probate, so those costs and the time involved may still apply. When your estate goes through probate, (no matter how large or small) all the matters become public record.
Trusts may be more appropriate for those with significant assets or complicated situations. Like a will, the trust can usually be revoked or modified while you are still living. Unlike a will, however, a trust allows your beneficiaries to skip the probate process, which could save you a lot of time and money. Those who own real estate in multiple states should generally consider a trust. Trusts are held private and the details are not public record.
WorkOptional Tips: What can YOU do right now?
If you don’t have a will or trust yet, here are some things to consider…
Do you own real estate? If so, make sure you have a TODD or Transfer On Death Deed. Even if you have a “Joint Tenant” listed, you should also do a TODD. This is because Joint Tenant only allows the real estate to go to the other named person on your title, however if both of you pass away, having the TODD (another named beneficiary) makes your real estate a non-probate asset, which may help to keep you out of court.
Do you have retirement accounts or non-qualified accounts? Make sure to list your beneficiaries on ALL retirement accounts. If you have non-qualified accounts, you should have a TOD or Transfer on Death beneficiary listed.
Checking or Savings? A POD or Payable on Death will name your beneficiaries.
Why do I care about having my estate plan and beneficiaries in place? Basically, probate and non-probate assets matter when it comes to determining whether or not the aid of the probate court is needed to transfer title to the new owners or whether the transfer can occur without the court’s involvement. Whenever courts are involved, it costs you time and money!
Probate court is required in Minnesota if, at death, you own real estate titled in your name alone, or you have probate assets in excess of $50,000. If a beneficiary is assigned to your assets, as stated above, typically there will be no need to go through probate, as it becomes a non-probate asset. So at the very least, I would encourage you to make sure your beneficiaries are designated and up to date.
Proper estate planning gives you control over important financial and personal decisions. Remember, if you don’t have an estate plan in place, the black sheep in the family, or probate court may be making decisions for you…
Disclosure: This material is intended to provide general financial education and is not written or intended as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for purposes of avoiding any Federal tax penalties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel. Individuals involved in the estate planning process should work with an estate planning team, including their own personal legal and tax counsel.
Margaret Leto July 29th, 2019
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