Almost every client I meet says to me, “well we’re very simple. We just want something simple and want something that should be easy.”
I think that what most people mean when they say “we’re simple” is they don’t have much. They’re referring to the things they own – their assets. Something like, “We just have a house and a retirement account and a couple of bank accounts.” Since their assets are simple to describe, the person believes their estate plan can be simple.
While your assets themselves might be simple and probably one of your goals is to make sure that those assets get passed down to your children or your grandchildren, there are factors that can complicate these plans. You want to make the process as easy and smooth as possible, and I understand that.
When we really start looking at your plan we find things may not be as simple as everyone hopes. Things like your family dynamics, the components of the plan itself, and reflecting your wishes and desires can complicate things a bit. Your plan really is about so much more than simply passing your assets down, it is about doing what you want and getting your wishes carried out properly.
Passing On Your Assets May Not Be So Simple
You need to consider whether your beneficiaries are financially responsible. Ask yourself: How would my beneficiary react to having a large sum of money? Would the beneficiary spend it wisely, or would the person benefit from you structuring a payout over time for them? Or, are there other restrictions on access to money that could be helpful and beneficial to those receiving the money?
Planning for the answers to these types of questions might not be simple. If everything is to be given outright, without any restrictions, then planning to distribute assets may be simple. If restrictions need to be put in place, then things might not be as simple as first considered. Restriction may be for money to be released at certain ages, as a reward for completing college, or for many other allowable reasons. These restrictions are to help your beneficiaries use of the assets they receive from your estate plan in the best way possible. This is true if you are setting up a will or a trust.
How Do I Choose The Right Person To Carry Out My Plan?
Another issue that can create complexity in an estate plan is choosing who is going to fill in the important roles in an estate plan. For example, a personal representative, successor trustee, or agent under a power of attorney, are important roles to fill. You need to choose someone who will manage your finances for you if you become incapacitated and then ultimately will see to it that the terms of your estate plan are implemented.
This is a big job that needs to be taken seriously. You need to choose somebody for that role who is financially responsible in their own life and able to handle your affairs in addition to their own. Choose someone who is good with finances, is on top of things so that, if you do become incapacitated, or you pass away, you have someone there who’s competent who is managing things for you.
Who is Your Health Care Decision Maker?
Beyond finances, there’s the issue of someone to make your health care decisions if you cannot. You need to appoint someone to make health-care decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself. You’ll need to appoint somebody in that role who you can trust will kind of make decisions that are in your best interest. You should also choose someone who understands what you would want to do for medical treatment and who can make such decisions without letting the decision overwhelm them.
Determining What is Best For You May be Simple, or Not
Funding your trust and dealing with the assets in your estate plan is the easy part. Determining what your goals are for an estate plan is something that an experienced estate planning attorney can help you to identify. Questions like: who’s important in your life, and who should receive assets? Who are your beneficiaries and what is the best way to construct your plan? Often is answering these types of questions are the most difficult complex and time-consuming part of creating an estate plan.
If you have any questions about this or any other estate planning topic you should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney.