Downs Law Firm, P.C.
Downs Law Firm, P.C.
What would happen with your kids, should something happen to you? It’s a question that most parents don’t like to think about.
What is the right age to inherit? You were pretty mature at 18, right? How old should a young person be before they receive a completely uncontrolled distribution of their inheritance? We ask clients that question many times in a given week, as it is an important component to just about every Will or Revocable Living Trust that we draft. The older I get, the older I think someone should be before they are mature enough to handle money. I used to say 25 was the right age. Now its 30 to 35. The concern is that many millennials today are delaying reaching typical milestones for measuring adulthood. Researcher Lydia Anderson of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University compared U.S. Census data from 1980 with the most recent American Community Survey data from 2015. Comparing 25- to 34-year-olds in 1980 with the same age group today, Anderson found that far fewer millennials are married, live away from their parents, have children of their own, or own their own houses than the baby boomers of the same age group the year Ronald Reagan was elected president. See https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2017/04/05/study-millennials-delaying-entry-adulthood/ The delay in reaching these thresholds of adulthood is evident. Maybe they are just smarter than I was about being in a rush to grow up. However, counterbalance that with the human tendency to always think the younger generation is less able than yours to handle the world. “The beardless youth… does not foresee what is useful, squandering his money.” Horace1st Century BC “The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth…” Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family, Reverend Enos Hitchcock1790 For an interesting collection of more of these, See “The 2,500-Year-Old History of Adults Blaming the Younger Generation” https://qz.com/quartzy/1264118/the-2500-year-old-history-of-adults-blaming-the-younger-generation/ For me, when I reached age 25, I had graduated from law school, paid for my own college and law school (with a few loans), been admitted to practice law in Maryland and the District of Columbia, and was married. I think I was a responsible 25-year-old. However, I had no real experience handling money and had no idea what raising a family would cost. My life experience then was sharing an apartment two roommates, paying for school and making a car payment. That’s why I lean toward older: its not the level of maturity only, but also the financial experience that should be taken into account. What is the right age? In making this or any other estate planning decision, I think it’s important to bear in mind that doing something is always better than doing nothing. You already have an estate plan, even if you haven’t signed a Will. If you die without any planning, uncontrolled use will be made to a minor person when he or she reaches the age of 18. In my life, that would be the worst possible age to pick. Any older choice is
Probate is what’s left over I draw about ten frying pans a week on a legal pad. This is not due to my great artist ability. We offer fee consultations to our client’s named financial successor after a person dies. That would be the Personal Representative, or executor, of a Last Will and Testament, or the Successor Trustee of a Revocable Living Trust. For trust clients, they are almost always the same person(s). In those consultations, I draw a frying pan. You see, Wills work through a Court process called probate. They are not effective until a Court appoints you as the actual representative, in Maryland by passing an Order and issuing Letters of Administration. Probate is the process of “Proving” the Will, meaning that interests parties are notified, and have a chance to object to the will. It is not necessarily good or bad. It is necessary if a will is to be used to distribute assets. Assets don’t necessarily go through this process: Often nothing does. The process is avoided by either Title or Contract. Title is by the form of ownership: Most husbands and wives own virtually everything this way as tenants by the entireties (T by E). If your spouse dies and the house, bank accounts and vehicles are in both names, then they are not in the frying pan. They get diverted by the title. You can own assets jointly with rights of survivorship (JWROS). At the death of one joint owner, the assets go to the survivor. You can also own property with another person as tenants-in-common, meaning that title of your portion does not convey by title at death. Like everything in life, title transfer can be good and bad. It’s great because it’s free. It’s bad because it can have unintended consequences. I transfer my house to myself and my son as joint owners, to “avoid probate”. My son has a car accident, and suddenly I may lose my home because my son owns part of it. Adding someone to the deed is simple, but not necessarily a good idea. I had a client who had two nieces that she put on her two investment accounts, each with a balance of about $200,000. One niece was named as a joint owner of each account. She later entered a long-term care facility. Her one niece dutifully paid the bill for over a year. The other decided to wait and see. When my client died, the niece who was faithful to her got next to nothing, while the other got her full account. How do you think they are now getting along? Also, it may be that a beneficiary should receive their inheritance in a controlled manner. Special needs beneficiaries need may want their benefits preserved. Someone with a drug problem might be best served with specific controls. A child getting divorced might want to buffer their inheritance. Title transfers are simple but don’t allow for any controls. They say there is more than one
There are some important documents that should always be in your estate plan to protect your family. However, some people still leave them out, according to Consumer Reports in “8 Essential Steps for Estate Planning.” A survey from Caring.com showed that as many as 60% of adults don’t have estate planning documents. When they asked families with young children, fewer than one in ten have even designated a guardian to take care of their children, if both parents should die. Worse yet, we have worked with numerous cases where people thought they had documents in place, but due to their own misunderstanding of the law or requirements, their plans were agonizing disappointments of what should, and could have been… What happens when there’s no planning in place? Even the simplest things become more complicated, and complicated things become financial and legal nightmares. When there’s an emergency and decisions need to be made, the entire family is subjected to more stress and costs than would otherwise be necessary. Here are the eight steps you need to take, right now, to protect your family: Get the professional help you need. The change to the tax law may or may not impact your family and your estate plan, but you won’t know until you sit down with an estate planning attorney. Trying to do this online, may seem like a simpler way, but you will not have the same peace of mind as when you sit down with an experienced attorney—and one who knows your state’s laws. Create a will. This is a legal document that explains how you want your assets to be distributed after you die. It names an executor to carry out your instructions. If you have minor children, this is an especially important document, since it is used to name their guardian. If you have no will when you die (called dying “intestate”), then the laws of your state determine how your assets are distributed and who rears your children. Depending on where you live, your spouse might not automatically inherit everything. Discuss whether you need a Revocable Living Trust. In most states, when you pass away, your estate goes through a process called “probate.” The courts basically review your estate plan and determine whether everything looks right. The problem is that your will becomes a public document—and so does information about your assets. Some people prefer to keep their lives private by transferring assets to a revocable living trust, which distributes assets according to your instructions at your death. Titles to the assets must be changed so they are “owned” by the trust. This is known as “funding” the trust. You still retain complete control of your assets, since you are the trustee. However, if you fail to retitle assets, the estate goes through probate. You will also still need a will to protect your minor children. Review your beneficiaries. Whether you remember it or not, when you open many different kinds of accounts—banking, investment—you assign a beneficiary