We are taught that greed is bad. And it is. However, what if you’re greedy in a way that is (a) beneficial to your family and (b) at the expense of no one? Your family’s wealth, prosperity, and blessings should be saturated with this “good greed.” (Before I get responses from the theologians and philosophers, I know this doesn’t fall in the realm of insatiable desire but bear with me!)
Everything costs something and when a person transfers wealth, it is perfectly acceptable for SOMEBODY to be compensated in the process. But (1) who are those people, (2) what are they doing, and (3) is it worth the reduction in the wealth being transferred at the time of distribution to beneficiaries?
Who are those people?
Probate Court (PC) -- The PC administrates the estate of the deceased who lacked a legal estate plan. The cost? Usually really high. Why? Check out this article on the fees wrapped up in your probate process.
Probate Attorney (PA) -- The PA oversees and guides the estate through the probate process. His fees? A percentage of your estate.
Beneficiaries (B) -- Beneficiaries are the individuals/organizations you choose to transition your wealth to after you pass away.
If you already see where you may have unnecessary costs in this process, let me throw in one more fun fact: ANYBODY can make a claim to your estate, holding up the process that much more and decreasing the amount left over for the true beneficiaries. If you don’t think anyone in your family would do this… you’re probably wrong!
MAXIMIZING YOUR INHERITANCE
This is easy. Don’t go through probate. Yep – it’s that simple. Set up a Revocable Living Trust, fund said trust, and you can cut out the expensive probate process.
One of the biggest mistakes people can make when going through their “adulting” stage of life is assume Revocable Living Trusts (RLT) are exclusively for old people, rich people, or rich old people. If you have a house and/or dependents, then you are a prime candidate for getting a RLT in place.
WHERE TO START
The most basic place to start is searching for an estate planner in your local area. Estate planning attorneys’ fees vary from office to office and may fluctuate based on your needs (special needs trust, disinheritance of a family member, charitable planning, etc). For someone needing a basic estate plan with little customization, you can expect to spend roughly $2,500-$4,500 for an estate plan.
If you’re a DIYer and want to draft/fund an estate plan yourself, there are online programs that allow you to download templated documents and complete a plan on your own. However, keep in mind that all future amendments, funding, and records of the trust will have to be kept by you. The risk here is that things go unmonitored for years and the trust is either (a) nowhere to be found or (b) not current when the time comes to utilize it. If you are thinking of doing it all on your own, we recommend getting educated on estate plans first. Here is a good place to start.
There has been a rise in non-attorney professionals offering semi-customizable estate planning and funding through third party service providers. Much of the estate planning process is data entry and, for most people, there is very little to customize. Technology is FINALLY creeping into the legal sector and bringing costs down on basic level planning without requiring the individual to do everything. We engage one of these providers, allowing people to initiate their plan, view the finished product, and then decide if it is something they really do want to pay for. Much like turbo-tax, it’s a try then buy process. Additionally, we can handle the deed transfer, document storage, and assist with amendments anytime in the future. Click here to learn more.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
There is no definitive answer on the plan for you. We HIGHLY encourage seeking legal counsel when dealing with complex plans, but the only person who can absolutely decide which path to take is you. Just remember that establishing a revocable living trust is not the only step in maximizing the transfer of your accumulated wealth. Funding and future changes must be monitored and executed as well. Decide how much of the work you want to do yourself and how much you are willing to pay to assist in the process. Even if you end up with a pricey estate plan, it is likely far less then going through probate!
As each generation goes through the “adulting” process, make sure they know the difference between good greed, bad greed, and how to best keep their wealth within the family and the charities they deem meaningful.
This information is provided for educational purposes. You should not construe any such information or other material as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.