If you’ve spent your lifetime building a sizable estate and legacy, you likely want to see as much of your assets as possible end up in the hands of your heirs. An effective estate plan can not only maximize the amount your heirs will receive but also reduce any delays in distribution.
While a will is one of the most commonly used estate planning documents, it doesn’t cover every possible estate planning threat. One such threat that a will doesn’t address is probate, which is the legal process for settling and distributing an estate.
During probate, your executor and the local court work to resolve a number of estate-related issues. They file a final tax return and pay any remaining tax obligations. They settle outstanding debts and contact potential heirs. They may have to liquidate assets to raise cash.
Probate can be a complex process. That complexity can lead to delays and even sizable costs. Your estate may have to pay everything from court fees to attorney costs and more. That’s money that won’t end up in the hands of your heirs.
Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the impact of probate. Below are three strategies that are often used to limit probate costs and delays. Review your estate plan to see if these strategies could play a larger role.
Accounts and policies that have a beneficiary designation don’t go through probate. Instead, the beneficiaries fill out a claim form, and the insurance company or account administrator directly sends them their share of the benefit. It’s usually a fast and convenient way to transfer assets.
Accounts with beneficiary designations include life insurance policies, annuities, IRAs, 401(k) plans, trusts and more. If you have these types of assets, review your beneficiary designations to make sure they still align with your wishes.
If you have a specific asset that should go to a specific person, you may want to consider joint ownership. You can add the heir as a joint owner. Then, when you pass away, the joint owner immediately takes over full ownership.
Be careful, though. As soon as you add the joint owner, they will likely have the same ownership rights as you. That means they may be able to make withdrawals, investment changes and more. Don’t proceed with this option if you aren’t comfortable with the joint owner having so much power.
There’s nothing saying you have to wait until your passing to transition assets to your heirs. In fact, you may find it helpful to do so while you’re still alive. If so, those assets won’t be part of your estate when you die, so they won’t flow through probate.
As an added bonus, you’ll be able to see your heirs put their inheritance to work. You may help them pay for education or start a business. That could give you a very personally rewarding asset-transfer experience.
Want to maximize your legacy? Contact us at TB Financial Group. We can help you analyze your estate plan and recommend potential strategies. Let’s connect soon and discuss your legacy goals and concerns.
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