So you are a unique, precious snowflake. Organizing your legal affairs so that they move in the most efficient way is unique to you. But the three factors that ultimately determine what happens when you die… and how you can plan ahead of time, are the same for everyone. The first factor is where you are. Your location and the laws there. The second factor that makes death issues unique to you, is what you have. And let me tell you, how much you have isn’t the defining factor.
Here’s something I hear a lot. “I don’t have a complicated estate, I don’t have much.” Almost everyone thinks they have a simple estate.
They think, easy as 1-2-3.
Except when it’s not.
And, you know what? The belief that you have an uncomplicated estate is as prevalent as thinking you’re middle class. Almost everyone believes their estate is “simple”, whether or not it’s true.
Sure, one complication is whether your estate will be likely to have estate taxes to pay. That affects people, but not the majority of people. And the tax man isn’t the only complication. You don’t need to be filthy rich to have complicated assets.
Some assets are hard to manage. They cost money and don’t make money. This can be really hard for things that your family wants to hold on to after you’re gone, like family cabins. Or your house that needs a mortgage paid while it gets cleaned out and put on the market.
Some are hard to split up, like a family farm or business. If some people rely on it for their livelihood, how can they keep going while the others still get “their fair share”?
But it doesn’t have to be land. It can be your Harley. Or grandma’s photo album.
Suddenly you start to see it. Assets can be complicated…. even if you aren’t a millionaire.
Your assets, where they’re supposed to go, how they’re supposed to be used, and how easily they can managed are different. They’re one of the things that makes you a unique, precious snowflake.
And here’s another mind blower…. the first thing I want to know when I meet with a family to sift through the legal issues isn’t whether they have a will. It’s what they have.
I’m not looking to see if they were secret millionaires…. I’m looking to see what’s stuck. Because that determines whether we need a probate and it determines whether we look at the will.
And guess what. Even if you have a trust, you might still have a probate. How can that be? Because you might have something that isn’t owned by the trust…. or isn’t set up to automatically go into it.
How your assets are owned are the determinative factor in how those assets transfer.
And organizing those assets so they transfer in the most efficient way? That’s something that is unique to you, snowflake.