As I write to you, I am bumping along somewhere east of the Carolinas, cruising at about 35,000 feet. It occurs to me, as I look around, that moments like this tend to get people thinking about what they are doing to take care of their families. Thoughts like, “If something were to happen to me, are they taken care of?”. Those thoughts are followed by, “Well I signed a will before I got on the plane, so I’m ok, right?” Perhaps you can relate to this experience, as the precipice for many of our clients to begin planning, is going on a trip or doing something they deem risky.
Not to put anyone in a panic, but that comforting thought for the security of your will, is a false sense of security. I assume that like me, you are hoping to make things as easy as possible for the loved ones you may leave behind, and you would like them to pay as few taxes as possible with as little headache as possible. Is that so much to ask? In the estate planning world, that can seem like a tall order sometimes, but this should not be the case.
Let’s talk about your will for a moment—what it will and won’t do for you. It will allow you to designate guardians for your children. That is something in its favor. It will allow you to designate who receives the assets you leave behind. Also a plus. However, this is where your will runs out. It won’t keep you out of the court system; it won’t allow your loved ones easy access to your assets; and it won’t keep your affairs private. With only a will in place, all of your probate assets (those not controlled by a contract) will have to go through probate, a process by which the court determines that your last will is valid and appoints your personal representative to handle your affairs. This process generally takes 15-18 months before it is completed and can cost 3-8% of your estate. Not only that, but because your loved ones have to wait for the court to appoint your representative, it can take weeks or months before they can access any of your assets, leaving them to pay for any expenses on your behalf in the meantime.
That’s the bad news, but there is good news. A will is not your only option when it comes to estate planning. We always recommend that our clients set up a trust to ensure as smooth and seamless a transition of assets to their loved ones as possible. In contrast to a will, a trust never dies, meaning it never loses control of the assets. When your assets are properly aligned with your trust, you eliminate the costly and frustrating probate process and ensure that your loved ones will have access to any assets they need as soon as they need them. Now doesn’t that sound a whole lot better?
To learn more about how Family Estate Planning Law Group can be there for you as you age and more about our unique estate planning process, explore our blog and visit our website to schedule your free consultation today!
–Written by Kristin Carroll, Manager: Trust Administration and Asset Alignment at Family Estate Planning Law Group.