Is it possible to reduce the stress of asset transfers at death?
We can all agree that end-of-life planning is a sensitive topic. Nonetheless, taking the time to consider a loved one’s estate and distribution of wealth can set the family at ease and also make certain that there is a smooth transition of assets, without unnecessary legal hurdles or headaches.
MarketWatch’s article entitled “3 tips for navigating estate planning with loved ones” explains that, if you’re thinking about starting the process of estate planning with a close family member, like an elderly parent or a new spouse, read these recommendations:
- Stress the ultimate benefit of peace of mind. Estate planning helps the transfer of assets in an efficient and less stressful manner. It also minimizes estate tax liability of your assets when you die. Most of all, your loved ones will benefit from having peace of mind.
- Be as open as you can. Be honest and communicate openly about your loved one’s wishes on how they would like to distribute their estate and wealth either during life or death. Many assumptions can be made about end-of-life financial planning, like parents who assume their children will not fight when dividing their assets. This can put a lot of stress on surviving siblings, so communicate clear expectations during the planning process. It is also important to take some time to consider trustees and executors and to encourage your parent or spouse to name an executor who is organized and thorough. Once this individual is named, be sure he or she understands the location of all of your loved one’s assets. Education and clarity can help create stress-free asset transfers by reducing uncertainty and conflict.
- Use care with beneficiary selections. Naming beneficiaries can have important tax implications. It is common to name a trust as the beneficiary of an IRA account when your children are young. However, as they grow up, this can be an issue. When an IRA is distributed to a trust, it triggers taxes. The assets will be taxed immediately before being distributed to beneficiaries. Name children as direct beneficiaries of their IRA, so that they have other options available to them. Many of these may provide significant tax savings. Having them seek proper advice can reduce the stress of these asset transfers.
One more thought: using “transfer on death” designations for individual accounts is similar to a beneficiary designation for a retirement account. However, it permits your parent or spouse to name beneficiaries when they pass and prevents their money from going through lengthy and expensive probate.
The best time to discuss estate planning with your parents is now. Work with an experienced estate planning attorney to guide you through this process.
Reference: MarketWatch (June 5, 2021) “3 tips for navigating estate planning with loved ones”