1. Have you prepared a will or a trust?
(Without proactive planning, you are relying on the state legislature to determine how your assets pass, to whom they pass, and when they pass. In addition to having potentially undesired results, this is perhaps the most costly and time consuming means of passing your assets to your loved ones.)
2. If you have done a will or trust, has it been reviewed in the last two years?
(Even assuming that there have been no family or financial changes since your plan was last reviewed, there may have been significant tax law changes. An out-of-date estate plan is perhaps worse than no estate plan at all. Our experience is that people view estate planning as an event rather than a process. Keeping your plan current is vital to achieving the goals you set out to accomplish.)
3. Are all of your heirs over the age of 21 and financially responsible?
(Under state law, children inherit property no later than age 21 without restriction. Proper planning is crucial to prevent an heir from squandering his or her inheritance, or worse, from causing harm to himself or herself.)
4. Are you absolutely certain that yourassets will not be subject to probate?
(You can make a list of each asset you own and identify how each assetis going to avoid probate. Assets owned as “joint tenants with rights of survivorship,” assets owned in the name of a trust, and assests that pass by beneficiary designation (such as IRAs, life insurance, etc.) will avoid probate. Everything else is subject to probate. Probates can be costly and time consuming.)
5. Do you have assets titled jointly with a child or children, or someone else?
(Holding assets jointly with someone other than a spouse is quite common, but has some potentially devastating consequences of which most people are unaware. A creditor of a joint tenant can take the entire asset to satisfy the creditor’s claim. A creditor would include a divorcing spouse, judgment creditor, or business creditor. Additionally,problems can be created if joint tenants die in the wrong order.)
6. Does your current plan provide your heirs with asset protection, divorce protection,and lawsuit protection?
(The most common means of providing for heirs is with outright distributions. By doing so, however, the inheritance becomes subject to the creditors of your heirs.)
7. Is this your first marriage?
(Second or subsequent marriages present unique planning issues, particularly if both spouses have children from a prior marriage. Proper planning is critical to prevent undesired results.)
If you answered "No" to any of the above questions or "Yes" to #5 you may want to consider speaking to an attorney about your estate plan.
(This is not intended to be legal advice and is only informational)