Planning Your Estate – Leave a Legacy
The end of your life is something you probably don’t want to dwell on, but thinking about what will happen to your loved ones and your assets and personal possessions is important to do. Making sure that you’ve done all you can to make your loved ones lives easier will give you peace of mind and once your documents are drafted, you won’t have to think about it again, unless something significant in your life changes.
A primary purpose of estate planning is to manage your affairs and to distribute your assets according to your wishes during and after your death. Successful estate planning transfers your assets to your beneficiaries quickly and easily. The process of estate planning includes inventorying your assets and making a Will and/or establishing a Trust, often with an emphasis on simplifying the distribution of estate property and minimizing taxes.
The first step in estate planning is to inventory everything you own and assign a value to each asset. Here’s a list to get you started. You may need to delete some categories or add others.
- Other Real Estate
- Savings (bank accounts, CD’s, money markets)
- Investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds)
- 401(k), IRA, pension and other retirement accounts
- Life insurance policies and annuities
- Ownership interest in a business
- Motor vehicles (cars, boats, etc.)
- Other personal property
The simplest way to ensure that your funds, property, and personal effects will be distributed after your death according to your wishes is to prepare a Last Will & Testament or “Will.” A Will is a legal document designating you’re the transfer of your property and assets after you die. Although Wills are simple to create, about half of all Americans die without one (or intestate). Without a Will to indicate your wishes, the court steps in and distributes your property according to North Carolina State Statutory Laws.
Start by organizing what you need: outline your objectives, inventory your assets, estimate your outstanding debts and prepare a list of family members and other beneficiaries. Use this information to carefully consider how you want to distribute your assets. Ask yourself lots of questions: Is it important to pass my property to my heirs in the most tax-efficient manner? Do I need to establish a Trust to provide for my spouse, life partner or other beneficiaries? How much money will my grandchild need for college? Do I need to provide for a child who has a disability? Outstanding debts will usually be paid by your estate before your beneficiaries receive their shares.
A Trust may be the best way to achieve a client’s goals. There are many forms of Trusts, a “Revocable Living Trust” can be changed at any point in a person’s lifetime. “Irrevocable Trusts” can be useful in tax planning and for long term care planning. “Pet Trusts” can be set up to care for your pets.
Call our office today to make an appointment to discuss your options.