For most people, understanding what happens in day to day life is a real challenge. However, the real conundrum occurs when trying to navigate what happens after someone passes away and all of their assets, debts, and wishes are left to be cared for by someone else.
It can be understated completely by saying that caring for a person’s estate is one of the most trying experiences of a person’s life, especially if said person is attempting to embark upon the journey without the assistance of a trained professional, who is well versed in matters related to estate planning.
Any instrument such as a will, a trust, or other device used to organize, distribute, or otherwise account for the affairs of a person who has died, is referred to as a testamentary instrument.
The system of wealth distribution in the United States focuses heavily on a concept called testamentary intent. Simply put, testamentary intent refers to the what a person wanted to accomplish most when they made a particular provision in a testamentary instrument.
The reason behind the focus on testamentary is multi-faceted. In some ways it is seen as the right way to handle things. After all, the person leaving the wealth was likely the person who built it to begin with, and thus should have ultimate say in what should happen to it. Additionally, it is thought to be an incentive to be productive in life. The idea is that if a person can leave no wealth to their heirs after death, what incentive do they have to save?
So you might ask, how does this apply to me?
The answer is quite simple. It is obvious based on the laws written in governing estate law, that the government cares what you want to do with your property once you die. If you do not make estate planning a priority, there will be no way for anyone to know what your wishes were.
Regardless of the amount of wealth a person accumulates, one thing that must happen at the end of every life, is the organization and winding up of the affairs of the person who has died. When a person embarks upon the task of organizing their affairs and making provisions to wind them up while they are still alive, they are simply relieving their loved ones and the court of the primary burden of doing it.
Estate Planning can take many different forms and is relative to the extent of the person’s estate, the complexity of their wishes, the amount of money which must be paid to creditors, the number of beneficiaries they wish to name, and a number of other factors which must be considered during the planning process.
With proper planning, a person wishing to do so can set up future tax shelters for income and gifts, avoid creditors in certain situations, prepare complex trust arrangements with multiple beneficiaries, provide for the benefit of their favorite charity, establish a care fund to maintain their pet, or any number of things that people wish to do with their hard-earned money once they are gone.
Whether your estate planning needs are simple or complex, the professional estate planners at Ford + Bergner LLP can help you make the arrangements that will protect your interests both in life and after death. Contact us today for further information!