Everyone’s heard about it: a celebrity dies and their relatives come out of the woodwork, insisting that they deserve some piece of the estate. Even though most of us aren’t celebrities, it happens in otherwise happy families too, so let’s talk about what you can do to prevent it.
In fact, it happened in April’s family and led her to work with clients to prevent this exact scenario. By planning ahead for the transfer of your estate assets, you can ensure that your loved ones needs are met and that your hard-earned assets are protected for those you intend to get them!
This blog post will help you keep the peace, even after you’re gone.
Identifying and understanding how your assets pass after your death is one of the most important aspects of estate planning. This includes a review of any real estate that you own so that you can transfer it to your heirs.
Other assets to consider when making an estate plan include bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies. Assigning beneficiaries for these types of accounts helps transfer assets quickly and smoothly but needs to be done in the context of your plan as a whole.
It’s also important to think about succession plans for any businesses where you have a role as an owner or investor. Valuable belongings, like jewelry, artwork, and sentimental items should be properly allocated in your will, trust, or even before you die as part of your estate plan. By identifying these assets you can create a well-rounded estate plan that safeguards your legacy, alleviates burdens for your loved ones, and ensures the effective execution of your intentions.
Our firm is probably a little different than most when it comes to naming beneficiaries. Most people will leave everything to a spouse and children, which is good because you can’t disinherit your spouse or minor children in the State of Tennessee.
However, outside of that, you’ll hear April tell everyone “No one is entitled to an inheritance.” (Yes, she tried to talk her own parents out of the typical distribution plan.) If you are part of a historically marginalized community, it may be important to you to pass on generational wealth, and that’s a great plan!
But there’s also nothing wrong with bypassing your immediate family in favor of a charitable organization that works towards a mission that you feel strongly about. Since Eliza Hamilton married one orphan and adopted another (in addition to founding the first private orphanage in New York City), it would have made sense for her to donate some of her fortune (were any of it left) to the orphanage upon her passing.
While pets can’t inherit outright in Tennessee, don’t forget that you can set up a pet trust to care for them when you’re gone or leave money to someone as your furry friend’s “caretaker.” You may also have close friends or more remote family members that you want to leave gifts to.
Remember, there are no “wrong” beneficiaries, except maybe Warren Buffett. The Oracle of Omaha has enough already- and he’s leaving it to charity!
Getting legal documentation in order will help prevent misunderstandings and disputes about your assets. Regularly reviewing and updating your choices guarantees your intentions align with evolving circumstances. For example, if your favorite nephew developed a severe gambling addiction, you may not want to allocate as much of your estate to him. When choosing beneficiaries, you want to reflect your values and leave a lasting positive impact on your loved ones and the causes you support.
Tax responsibilities are an inevitable part of life, and they can occur in death too.
Understanding estate taxation and knowing tax thresholds can help you determine the taxes your estate may be subject to. A firm grasp of tax thresholds can help you create a plan that helps you maximize the distributions to your beneficiaries, rather than the government.
For most Tennesseans, taxes will need to be paid on your income from the final year of your life, and withdrawals from any retirement accounts that were tax-deferred, like 401ks and traditional IRAs. However, since 2016, Tennessee does not have an estate tax and the federal estate tax only applies to estates that have multiple millions of dollars. The federal estate tax limit changes sometimes, so you’ll want to consult with an attorney about your tax exposure – and maybe follow our newsletter for updates. *wink*
Some strategies can help you reduce your tax liability, helping your beneficiaries in the long run. For example, making gifts or transferring assets during your lifetime can reduce the value of your taxable estate, but should be discussed with an attorney first.
By aligning your estate planning with tax thresholds, you can ensure your loved ones receive the maximum inheritance possible while preserving and passing on your wealth and intentions to future generations.
Updating and Reviewing Your Estate Plan
Regularly keeping your estate plan up to date is crucial to ensure your goals are met. It’s important to review it every few years so that you can make necessary adjustments based on changes in your life.
Life events like marriages, births, divorces, or financial changes may require updates to beneficiary designations or how your assets are allocated. If Junior’s wife divorced him for his best friend, you’re probably not going to want to give her part of your estate.
If you move, make investments, or start a business venture, it’s also an idea to reassess your plan. You’ll want to have a clear plan in place if you die while owning a business – without a succession plan in place, you have no control over what happens to your business after you die.
A flexible estate plan takes into account evolving family dynamics, financial situations, and personal goals so that your intentions are consistently honored.
Seeking Professional Assistance
Wading through estate planning with no experience is extremely overwhelming. A lot of care is required, in addition to an in-depth knowledge of the laws and your rights. An experienced estate planning attorney brings legal expertise to the table, aiding in the creation and validation of documents like wills and trusts.
Working with a Tennessee estate planning attorney ensures your estate is customized according to your desires and adheres to relevant laws. You’ll be better equipped to organize your assets, plan investments, and ensure a smooth transition for your family. Together you can navigate complexities and come up with an estate plan that honors your legacy.
Preserve Your Legacy with Graceful Aging Legal Services
At Graceful Aging Legal Services, we have caring and knowledgeable estate planners who can help you direct your assets to the people and causes that are most important in your life. For more information about estate planning and how it can help you preserve your legacy, contact us. We’re dedicated to providing you with the guidance and support you need to navigate the complexities of estate planning.