Pre-death Planning: Will/Trust and Beneficiary Designations
Death is inevitable for everyone. As much as we’d like to avoid the conversation, you can help your loved ones through a difficult time by having a proper estate plan in place.
The first question many clients ask is “Do I need a trust?” The answer – “It depends.”
During your consultation, we’ll review your assets and how they are titled, your family dynamics, and your ultimate goals for how you’d like your estate distributed.
First, it’s important to point out that not all assets are distributed pursuant to the terms of a will or trust. IRAs, 401(k)s, annuities, and life insurance policies are beneficiary designated assets. This means you’ll complete a form with the company that holds the account or policy to give direct instructions as to how each specific account will be distributed.
The remainder of your assets, such as personal property, bank accounts, and real estate, are distributed pursuant to the terms of your will or trust.
Last Will and Testament
A testator, the person making a testament, may leave their final instructions for distribution of their estate upon their death by executing a will. A will can also leave special instructions such as naming a guardian for minor children or leaving small monetary gifts or gifts of tangible personal property to a beneficiary.
Upon death, the Last Will and Testament is filed with the Clerk of Court. The estate is then probated, a process where all assets are accounted for, debts are paid, and then remaining assets distributed to beneficiaries, with oversight from the Clerk of Court
The benefit of a revocable trust is that assets that are transferred to the trust avoid probate. There’s no oversight from the court, and the trustee you name can access assets, pay debts, and distribute the remainder to the beneficiaries a bit quicker than if the estate had gone through probate.
Additionally, the terms of a revocable trust are private. Wills are filed with the Clerk of Court and become public record. Anyone who is curious or nosy can request a copy of the will and see who you named as beneficiaries.
A “pour-over will” is signed in conjunction with a revocable trust. The pour-over will is filed with the Clerk of Court, however, it simply states that your trust is the beneficiary in order to protect your privacy.
The attorneys at North Carolina Estate Planning & Fiduciary Law can prepare these documents as part of your estate plan and ensure that your wishes are carried out properly.
Our senior partner, Jim Hickmon, is a Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning and Probate Law. He and his staff are experienced, strategically minded, and understand the impact incapacity planning decision may have. They can help guide you through the elements you may need to consider. Contact our office for a consultation so that we can guide you through the process of creating directives tailored to your personal circumstances.
Firm principal Jim Hickmon is a North Carolina Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning and Probate Law. Our Firm assists families, executives and entrepreneurs with designing and implementing personal estate planning and wealth preservation strategies. Call us at (704) 248-6325 to schedule your consultation today.