Thursday, August 10, 2017
Estate planning has been historically associated with those who have enough assets to justify the expense of hiring an attorney. The complexities of drafting a will and establishing trusts for beneficiaries can be very expensive. As many families are discovering though, you do not have to have a large estate for family members to start fighting over money or grandma’s antique boudoir furniture.
Given the odd and materially ravenous nature family members can assume after a loved-one’s death, it is important for those with even modest wealth to do some estate planning. The most important part of an estate plan is a will. While some assume their state’s intestacy scheme will pretty much follow their final wishes, there can be some unexpected surprises. In Texas, for example, if there are children from a prior marriage, your spouse will not receive any part of your community property. This can be extremely problematic if a decedent’s assets are illiquid and the surviving spouse is forced to sell a home or business to pay taxes and divide the property.
Setting up a trust may be beneficial if you are interested in giving away assets to beneficiaries with certain restrictions on how the assets will be used. This is especially useful when you want to take care of a child or grandchild that has proven to be financially illiterate or has interests that actively impair their decision-making skills. Trusts may also be used as tax shelters in some circumstances. Finally, designate a power of attorney. It is extremely important to have someone that you can trust readily available to make decisions for you in case of incapacity.
See Ernie Burns, Estate Planning Is Not Just For The Ultra-Rich Anymore, Financial Advisor, August 3, 2017.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.
Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.