Everyone must plan their estate. Otherwise, you run the risk of your affairs being a mess at your death and things not happening the way you intended. Make sure you speak with a qualified estate planning attorney to build your customized estate plan. Just like every person and family is unique, so is your estate plan.
Here are five ideas for your plan:
- Testamentary Trusts Consider adding testamentary trusts to your will, either for your kids or grandkids. A customized testamentary trust has several benefits, including ensuring asset preservation, protection for minors, and more. A well-written testamentary trust is economical and can provide you peace of mind.
- The Year of the Gift: Consider a sophisticated gift strategy. 2012 might be considered the "Year of the Gift" because of the large exemption amount of $5 Million that may disappear at the end of the year. Smart gifting can provide many benefits to you and your heirs, but you must ensure gifting is done properly and in a way that makes sense for you. Be careful about doing-it-yourself.
- Write an ethical will: Most times, a Will or a Trust cannot capture the values, ideals, morals, judgments that you wish to pass on to the next generation. An ethical will can put those thoughts into words for you. Although it's not a legal document, an ethical will can be a great addition to any estate plan.
- Trust Strategy: Consider the use of trusts for certain needs. For beneficiaries on public benefits, a special needs trust should be established. If you wish to preserve assets against Medicaid spend down, a nursing home protection trust should be used. There are other trusts and strategies as well, and depending on your situation, they may make sense for your estate plan.
- Communicate: Talk to your family! Communication is key for any estate plan to work. You don't need to tell your kids how much you have in your estate, but you should communicate your general intentions as to who the Executor will be, whether there are even or uneven distributions and why, etc. Surprises are never good and unpleasant or unexpected surprises can lead to lasting conflict.
Please continue to update your plan regularly, and if you don't already have an estate plan, now is the time to put one into place!