A 6-PART FINANCIAL WELLNESS SERIES
Traveling is as much about the ability to pursue dreams as it is about boarding passes and bucket lists. At Griots Republic, we understand that building a secure financial base is only one aspect of ensuring that we reach those dreams. Stay tuned and please leave comments or questions for our 6 part financial wellness series.
In 1789 in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, Benjamin Franklin famously wrote –
“Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
No one likes to talk about death, but it is something that we will all experience at some point in our lives. Eventually we all will die and/or will lose the people that are closest to us. It is always better to be prepared for the inevitable than not. When you think about your financial health, part of your overall plan should include what will happen to your assets should you have an untimely death. In our previous Building Fund articles, we covered
1) Financial Wellness: where we talked about how to budget and save
2) Improving your Credit Score: to prepare you for large purchases like cars, homes, weddings, retirement etc.
3) We will cover Estate Planning and how to protect your assets and provide for your family when you are no longer here.
Estate planning has become a serious focal point for my wife and I because we have lost a number of family members in a short period of time and have seen what people close to us have had to go through when there was no established plan. The law defines an “estate” as the net worth of a person at any point in time alive or dead. It is the sum of a person’s assets, legal rights, interests and entitlements to property of any kind – less all liabilities at that time.
Over the years, I have heard a number of people say “Well, I have a will so I’m covered, right?” After doing the research I have found that a will is not enough! Did you know that a will can be challenged by other family members (tying up assets in court), and it only gives direction as to where the assets will go (after your debts are paid)? Also, the most surprising thing that I learned about was: The Probate process.
“Probate refers to the process whereby a decedent’s debts may be settled and legal title to the decedent’s property held in the decedent’s name alone and not otherwise distributed by law, is transferred to heirs and beneficiaries. If a decedent had a will, and the decedent had property subject to probate, the probate process begins when the executor, who is nominated by the decedent in the will, presents the will for probate in a courthouse in the county where the decedent lived, or owned property. If there is no will, someone must ask the court to appoint him or her as administrator of the decedent’s estate. Often, this is the spouse or an adult child of the decedent. Once appointed by the court, the executor or administrator becomes the legal representative of the estate.” In other words, after you die even if you have a will your loved ones still have to hire a probate lawyer to settle the estate (who will charge a fee of $250/hour, $1500 flat rate or up to 4% of the gross value of the estate).
There are four basic steps in the Probate process:
- File a petition and give notice to heirs and beneficiaries.
- Following appointment by the court, the personal representative must give notice to all known creditors of the estate and take an inventory of the estate property.
- All estate and funeral expenses, debts and taxes must be paid from the estate.
- Legal title in property is transferred according to the will or under the laws of intestacy (if the decedent did not have a will).
When I found out about this it just all sounded like a BIG headache. I did not want to put my family through this after I pass away so I wanted to find out: Is there a way to avoid the probate process?
The answer is: YES. The alternative to a Last Will and testament is a Living Revocable Trust. A trust is a legal document that authorizes a trustee, who can be the grantor (or the creator of the trust), to hold title to and manage assets. The grantor retains the ability to revise the trust up until death. Unlike in a will, assets in a living trust will generally pass to heirs sooner. In many states — though not all — the process by which a will is probated through the courts is lengthy and expensive, says Russell Fishkind, partner at law firm Saul Ewing and author of “Probate Wars of the Rich and Famous.” He adds: “Transferring assets into a trust could save months and thousands in legal fees.”
Here are some key differences between a will and a living revocable trust:
- A Living Trust Avoids the Probate Process
- Living Trusts are Private and Harder to Contest
- Another Trustee May Manage Your Estate for You During Life and care for your property if you become incapacitated.
Once you hire a lawyer that specializes in estate planning and you create the trust, the final step is financing it or transferring your assets (bank accounts, real estate deeds, and investments) into the trust. In many instances, all you will have to do is attach a POD (pay on death) benefit to your account that says that in the event of your death it makes the trust the beneficiary.
Estate planning is key in helping to keep wealth in your family and should not be taken lightly. With proper planning, you will be able to ensure that your children and/or grandchildren are provided for with an inheritance and your family will be on their way to shortening the overall wealth gap disparity in the United States.