Having a will is not always enough. Preparing heirs for sudden wealth, maintaining family harmony and introducing family members to advisors are part of transferring wealth and a legacy.
If you don’t have a will, you are not alone. Only about 45% of American adults have estate planning documents in place. Without a will, the laws of your state will determine what happens to your assets and minor children, according to Forbes in “The Difference Between Having an Estate Plan and A Wealth Transfer Plan.” If your estate includes significant assets, you are leaving your heirs a mess.
If you don’t have estate planning documents, then your family will be exposed to unnecessary court fees, frustration and wasted time and effort. The proper estate planning documents can speed the probate process, decrease costs and help maintain harmony in the family. If you do have estate planning documents, it’s important to know the differences between these documents and a wealth transfer plan.
Unprepared families are often fractured by jealousy, animosity and a lack of trust when a parent dies and the beneficiaries are made known for the first time. Heirs may think they’ve been short-changed without knowing the reasons behind the decisions the deceased made.
In many cases, family wealth erodes due to a lack of communication, understanding and trust among family members. Equally destructive: heirs who are unprepared to receive their inheritance. In addition, there can be problems with financial and tax planning and poor investing. Some heirs will take their inheritance and go on a spending spree or quit working.
A wealth transfer plan is a strategy that prepares and educates your heirs about their inheritance, keeps family harmony and equips your heirs to make better decisions about what they inherit. This means communicating your money values and family goals; sharing your intentions regarding heirs or beneficiaries and time frames for transfers; introducing family members to your advisors—such as your estate planning attorney—to address their questions; giving heirs a better understanding of family assets and encouraging sound investing; talking about methods of transfer—including direct gifts, the use of trusts and the importance of philanthropy; and encouraging family members to establish their own estate plans to help them accept their inheritance.
Wealth transfer succeeds when it is begun early so that there is time to clarify and work through any dissent, which may take many forms. An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to guide you and your family through the process. Consider it part of the legacy you leave to your heirs.
Reference: Forbes (July 1, 2016) “The Difference Between Having an Estate Plan and A Wealth Transfer Plan”
Legacy Counsellors, P.C. can customize an estate plan to fit your unique and individualized needs. Please contact our office today if you would like to establish an estate plan. (413) 527-0517.