Most clients do not feel they need estate planning. What estate? What they do not realize is that if you add the equity in your home, your retirement assets (401Ks, IRAs, etc…) and your life insurance (YES!! Your life insurance is included in your estate for estate tax purposes) that your estate is larger than you originally thought.
This year, in 2015, the estate tax laws enable you, if you die, to pass up to $5.43 million to anyone you know without paying estate taxes. If you are married and your spouse is a United States citizen that spouse also may receive an unlimited amount of your estate with no estate taxes.
So why do I need an estate plan if my estate will be less than $5.43 million? Here are just a few good reasons:
- What if the laws change? If you purchase new life insurance and the original owner and beneficiary is an irrevocable trust then those monies are not part of your estate for estate tax purposes. If you transfer a life insurance policy into an irrevocable trust you must live for three years and a day after the transfer happens to remove the life insurance from your estate for estate tax purposes. This gives your assets more room to grow without estate tax liability.
- What happens to my minor children? Without a Last Will and Testament naming a Guardian for your minor children, if a birth parent is not alive, the children can end up in foster care.
- Who handles my estate if I do not have a Last Will and Testament? What happens to my assets? Also without a Last Will and Testament someone will need to go to court and ask permission to be appointed as Administrator of your estate. That is time and monies. Then they will need to post a bond (more time and money) and provide an accounting of your estate to the court (again more time and monies). Then the assets will go as defined by Georgia Law (the law of the state you reside, if you do not reside in Georgia). A Last Will and Testament will say who gets what assets and appoint positions so the time in the court house is minimal.
- With no Last Will and Testament doesn’t my spouse receive 100% of my assets? Did you know that if you die without a Last Will and Testament your spouse and children will split the monies in percentages according to the Georgia Code, and your children may receive monies free of trust at a very young age.
- What if I am alive but cannot handle my finances or medical decisions? You also need a Financial Power of Attorney and a Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare. The Financial Power of Attorney allows you to appoint who will pay your bills and handle your finances if you are unable to do so (you are still alive but cannot handle your finances – car accident, surgery, out of town, etc….). The Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare allows you to name who will make decisions for you, if you are unable, regarding medical treatment. This also allows you to make some decisions in advance to a medical situation where you may be unable to communicate your wants and needs.
This information is simplified for the purpose of this article. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific needs. Laura K Schilling, JD, CPA, CSA, CFP® is the founder of Laura K Schilling, Esq., CPA, CSA, Estate Innovations LLC, a law firm focusing on estate planning. Laura is licensed in Florida and Georgia as a practicing lawyer. Laura also is the founder of Financial Innovations, LLC. This is a fee-based wealth management firm. Contact Laura at Laura@estateinnovations.biz and Laura@financialinnovations.biz and visit her websites at www.estateinnovations.biz and www.financialinnovations.biz. Securities offered through Triad Advisors, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC.