Estate Planning is about more than a simple will. It is about more than who gets the house and the car when you die; or whether they take it debt free or subject to the mortgage or the car loan. These things are, of course, part of it, but there is more. Estate planning is about looking at your whole personal and financial picture and developing a solid plan for your family and/or your business. In addition to a will, you need other documents in place in case of incapacity, such as a durable power of attorney, health care power of attorney, living will/desire for natural death and a HIPPA authorization. This is not an all-inclusive list. Every situation is different.
In addition to who gets your stuff, here are some questions while thinking about planning for the unexpected (again, not all inclusive):
Who looks after the children?
Who looks after the money? For example, your sister may be wonderful with the kids, but she may not be able to balance a checkbook. Moreover, would you want the one in charge of the money to be an individual or a bank/corporate trustee?
Who looks after you if you are incapacitated and not able to look after your self?
Who looks after your financial life if you are incapacitated?
Do you have a child or a spouse with special needs?
Is your retirement plan beneficiary designation structured in the most tax efficient way?
Do you have or need life insurance?
Is your estate subject to tax?
Do you have a power of appointment given to you in a trust document?
Do you want to avoid probate?
Are there intra family issues? For instance, do you have a blended family situation with multiple children from each marriage?
If you are a business owner, what happens to the business?
Do you have charitable intentions?
If you do not have a valid will, your property is transferred to your spouse and your heirs through a process called intestate succession. In plain English, this just means that North Carolina Law dictates who gets what. Your wishes may not be that of North Carolina’s intestacy law.
These are not always easy questions, but they need to be addressed as part of your overall plan.
Moreover, estate planning is not stagnant. Just because you signed all of your documents 10 years ago does not mean that they are current now. Laws change. Tax laws change. Your own situation changes. Your documents need to be reviewed every few years to ensure they reflect your current wishes. Unless it was part of your divorce settlement, please do not be the client that is on his third marriage and leaves his life insurance proceeds to his first spouse. Susan can work with you to develop an ongoing solution for you and your family.
If you have been named as the executor or administrator of an estate, you may feel overwhelmed. Settling an estate can be a full time job, and most people who have been named as executor or administrator of an estate already have a full time job, be that at home or at work. Susan can work with you and the Clerk’s office to get the debts paid, assets distributed and estate settled in the most efficient way.
Many trust beneficiaries feel trapped with their existing trustee. They do not understand their situation or their options. Beneficiaries get a statement every year and maybe a distribution every month, but they do not understand their rights and options as beneficiaries. Your grandfather may have named Bank X as trustee 20 years ago, but Bank X may have been very different 20 years ago. It may have been through 3 or 4 mergers and acquisitions, and your trust officer and portfolio manager may have changed as many times. You may also be unhappy with your current distribution schedule or what you feel is lack of involvement or understanding from your trustee. Susan can work with you and explain your situation. Together, you and Susan can look at options to change your trustee or work with the existing trustee to reach common ground.