When many people think of "estate planning," they automatically picture legal documents and procedures associated directly with a person's death. While it is true that wills and trusts play a (potentially) huge role in estate planning depending on the circumstances, there are also instances where estate planning can affect the planner's life while he or she is still alive. An example of this is an advance directive or advance healthcare directive: having a living will can produce a blueprint of your wishes if you are medically incapacitated, allowing your chosen agent to make decisions on your behalf accordingly.
Estate planning is a vital piece of financial wellness, but many Americans overlook it. For example, the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils says that well over half of Americans do not currently possess an up-to-date and valid estate plan. In fact, the majority of Americans who are over the age of 65 depend entirely on their Social Security payouts. This is not the most financially secure retirement. With proper estate planning, Americans can go into retirement with more confidence and security.
Since there is so much terminology involved with trusts, it is easy to become confused. Many trusts refer to "grantors" and “settlors” and "trustors," and you may wonder what role these play in your estate planning. The good news is that the basics are very simple: these are actually interchangeable terms. Essentially, these terms refer to the entity or person who created the trust. In essence, the person who holds this role makes all the decisions regarding the trust, including what goes into the trust, who the beneficiaries of the trust are and how the law will disseminate any inheritance from the trust.
One of the top concerns when going through the estate planning process for older generations is to ensure their heirs avoid probate. Probate can be extremely expensive and ties up assets that heirs can't access. Learn how a nasty divorce can turn a probate process into a nightmare.
Choosing a beneficiary for your will or estate may seem like a daunting process, but it does not have to be. To be clear, a beneficiary is an individual (or organization) who receives a piece of your estate when you die. It is possible to have multiple beneficiaries of a will or estate. You can also make the beneficiary whomever you wish: a beneficiary does not have to be a relative.
Watching your child leave home for the first time can be difficult. Not only are there all of the emotional issues attached to dropping your child off at the dorms, there is also the reality of all the legal changes that are likely happening at the same time. You may always think of your children as your babies, but the law sees your children very differently once they turn 18. Namely, since your children are no longer legally minors, the HIPAA privacy rule now applies to your child's medical records. This amounts to a major legal change which could prevent you, as a parent, from knowing that your children are in the hospital in the event of a major medical issue.
One of the most important (and earliest) decisions you will make regarding your business is the structure. This is a big decision since it will have a huge impact on the amount of personal liability you take on, the amount of paperwork you are legally required to do and the amount you pay in taxes.
Many people believe that it is a smart idea to add their children on the deed to their home for inheritance purposes. Generally, the reasons for this are honest in nature. In the majority of cases, people want to help their heirs avoid probate or inheritance tax and think adding the child’s name to the deed is a form of asset protection. Sometimes they may also want to put their child’s name on a house deed to prevent the sale of the home to pay for assisted living expenses.
There are few things more destructive to family relationships than dealing with disputes after a loved one’s death. Dealing with potential high-value assets along with grief can be overwhelming and ruin a family. Additionally, intense strife over a will or trust may result in some or all of your intended beneficiaries attempting to abandon your estate plan.
There are many reasons to want to avoid probate: it becomes a matter of public record, it can cost your heirs a lot of money, and it can sometimes take years. For these reasons, many people take it upon themselves to try and avoid probate at all costs.