Q: What will happen to my assets when I die?
–Concerned Family Member
A: Dear Concerned:
Many people wonder what will happen to their assets when they die. Indeed, concerns over this question are what inspire many people to think about estate planning, though we continue to be surprised at the number of people who decide to do nothing, when it’s so easy to make things as easy as possible for the people you love.
Answering this important question requires determining, first, if you have a Will or Trust in place. If so, your Will or Trust has guidelines for how your assets should be managed, but here are some basics to keep in mind about how assets transfer hands after death.
First of all, if you have a Trust, and your assets are properly titled in the name of your Trust, all assets pass to the beneficiaries named in your Trust without the need for your loved ones to go to Court at all.
If you do not have a Trust, or your assets are not properly titled in the name of your Trust, then your family will have to go to Court and the probate court will require your estate to have an executor who will oversee the process of distributing your estate.
If you die “intestate” (without a will), the court will appoint an executor, and your assets will pass down to your rightful heirs, usually your spouse and/or children, according to state law.
This sounds straightforward, but it rarely is. Without a comprehensive plan in place, family members could end up in Court unnecessarily, or get into conflict over your assets. Surprisingly, most family fights aren’t even over financial assets, but over the more sentimental assets, like your personal belongings. .
Establishing a plan, that is shared with the family members who will handle things after you are gone is the best course of action. .
To ensure your family is not unnecessarily tasked with managing an unplanned estate, meet with a Personal Family Lawyer® for proactive guidance. A Personal Family Lawyer® begins with a Family Wealth Planning Session that will help you to get clear on what you own, who you love, and what will happen to everything you own and everyone you love, when something happens to you. Before the session, your Personal Family Lawyer® will send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, ensure none of your assets are lost to the State Department of Unclaimed Property, and get you clear on what matters most to you, so you can incorporate your highest values into your planning. .
Developing a trusting relationship with a Personal Family Lawyer® and completing a Family Wealth Planning Session is the best way you can ensure things are as easy as possible for the people you love, in the event of your death or incapacity.