As a wills, trusts, and estate attorney, I am routinely surprised when I speak with families regarding their estates that I will hear the phrase to begin our meeting … “We have a very simple estate and only need basic planning.”
I am always surprised when I hear a client start out a meeting in this manner. Perhaps, it is a fear that they are going to be “sold” something they feel they do not need, their financial advisor told them what they needed or didn’t need, or a fear on what the bill is going to be for this planning. Whatever the reason may be, I am always surprised to hear a meeting start off in this manner. Quite simply, I would never go into a doctor’s office and say, “I only have a simple broken bone” or “I only have a simple pain in my side,” after all, I am not qualified to determine whether I have simple or a complex medical issue. The same discussion should apply to your estate as well.
Furthermore, to me, my family is the most important aspect of my life. Therefore, I would never say that our family have a “simple” anything. I would hate to know that if something happened to me, that I could have done something that would have protected their financial future, and because I didn’t think it was important and thought it was “simple,” I didn’t do anything or enough for my family.
Therefore, before you say, “I just have a simple estate,” you should probably ask yourself these questions first:
- Would it bother you if your spouse remarried and left all of the family assets to their new spouse and family?
- Would it bother you leaving your spouse with having to deal with a probate administration after your death that lasted months or even years?
- Would it bother you if your entire financial affairs became open to the public?
- Would it bother you if your children and heirs lost their inheritance to creditors, divorcing spouses, lawsuits, and other predators?
- Would it bother you if your children and heirs paid a 15% or 20% tax rate on retirement accounts that you leave to them, knowing that you could have reduced their tax obligations?
- Would it bother you if your children blew through their inheritance in a few short years, and it left them destitute in their later years?
- Would it bother you if your spouse only received a 50% step up in tax basis, when your spouse could have received a 100% step up in tax basis?
- Would it bother you if your spouse and children had to go to court to obtain authority to make financial and healthcare decisions for you?
- Would it bother you if your spouse and children needed to have a court to decide whether you are incompetent or not?
- Would it bother you if you had spent all of your wealth on your long-term care nursing home costs, and left nothing to your children and other heirs?
- Would it bother you if your family had to go to court to determine who would receive custody to your minor children because you didn’t put a plan in place first?
- Would it bother you if your family had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs and taxes because you failed to plan in advance?
- Would it bother you if your special needs child lost their government benefits because of an inheritance that you left him or her?
If you can answer all of these questions and say that “none of these things would bother me,” then congratulations! You do have a simple estate! However, nearly all of my clients do not have a simple estate. Just like my family, all of my clients want to do everything in their power, while they still can, to provide for their family in the event of their death. In addition, nearly all of my clients, just like I do, want to cover all the bases with their planning and their family to make sure that nothing could possibly go wrong, and that their dreams come true (even if they are gone).
Now is the time to have that conversation to make sure your estate planning and legal life plan is in order to protect your family.
If you have questions, ready to begin the process, or just want to sit down with me, have a cup of coffee, and discuss estate planning and how a comprehensive estate plan may benefit you and your family, contact our office for an initial consultation at (615) 472-2482!
P.S., don’t forget! You can learn a lot about estate planning and discover the answers to a lot of your questions by downloading one of our Free Reports to the left of the screen!