Responsibly managing your estate plan will often involve reflecting on the stage of life you are currently in and adjusting it accordingly. As such, here are four critical scenarios encountered over the course of one’s life which will necessitate thinking through how you need to plan for your own and your beneficiaries’ futures.
Marriage or Divorce – If you have a current will or trust in place for your estate plan, then anytime your marital status changes, that documentation needs revision immediately. The main reason being that your spouse (or soon-to-be ex-spouse) is likely your primary beneficiary. If you are entering into marriage, then making sure your assets transfer to him or her in a transparent, legal manner will help avoid both headaches and costs associated with the probate court. However, if the opposite case is true, then your documentation need to be adjusted accordingly.
The reason being that if you pass away suddenly, your assets could very well end up with your former spouse whether you like it or not – all because the legally binding paperwork saying so never changed. This circumstance can cause considerable heartache in matters of remarriage. A simple call and meeting with a legal professional to review and adjust can avoid that trouble. However, all be sure to update not only your will but also any life insurance policies, asset titles, etc. All documentation must be in agreement when revising your estate plan.
Brand New Business – Besides addressing marital issues, either building or acquiring a new business provides ample reason to review your plan. If you have multiple beneficiaries in your current estate plan, then your business needs to be accounted for within it. Not only do shares of ownership need to be addressed but also (if not otherwise decided) the matter of who will be in charge of running it.
If you own and run a successful business, then leaving an unclear line of succession is a recipe for familial strife. Moreover, it could potentially lead to the business falling unnecessarily under the auspices of the probate court. Putting your business through the probate system will not only incur unnecessary costs, cause unwanted delays, but also allows the government to decide what to do with your business instead of leaving it up to people you trust.
New Home – Purchasing a new home will inevitably raise the value of your estate overall, so how the home’s ownership is titled is important. One legal instrument that can help with providing clarity on ownership once you pass on is a land trust. Often used for invest properties, land trusts are also able to assume your property’s title from you and into an assigned trustee’s care. Not only are they ideal for shifting the home’s title out of your name for asset protection and privacy purposes, but they also cut out the probate process upon passing. If preserving your home for the family is paramount to your plans, then this route is certainly worth investigating.
Children – If you and your spouse decide to have children together, then you need to have documentation in place for when they are both young, as well as when they reach adulthood. While they are young, it is often advised to clarify guardianship of them if you and your significant other pass away suddenly. Rather than leaving an unclear path amongst remaining family members or forcing the state to decide, an estate plan can clearly define who they are to be with under such circumstances.
When they reach adulthood, that documentation will need to be amended once again to reflect beneficiary designation for your assets upon passing. As with many of these other scenarios, the more you can do to prevent your estate from going to a probate court, the better off your beneficiaries will be. Furthermore, it helps guarantee your assets stay with the ones you love rather than being decided by a random judge.
As you consider these different life stages and how an estate plan should reflect on them, here is as good a time as any to ask yourself – where is my plan right now? Have I ever thought about what will happen to everything I own once I pass on? Who will take care of my kids if something happens? Is there anyone I can count on if I’m suddenly gone? These questions need answers sooner rather than later. If you haven’t found those answers yet, but are looking to protect those very things, then Anderson may be able to help you with revising your estate plan.
We have over twenty years of experience with helping real estate investors protect their assets in the present, and help plan for their futures. A significant part of that planning also includes correctly assessing and protecting your assets, so you have the final say in what happens with your legacy versus the legal system. If you need to start answering these questions now, then contact us today for a free 30-minute strategy session with one of our experienced advisors. We understand this process and will help you along every step of the way.