Of all the financial strategies that many people have in place, an inheritance strategy is usually not one. Discussing estate planning amongst family members can be uncomfortable even with the best relationships, let alone discussing the contents of an estate strategy and what you may be inheriting after your loved one is gone.
But having a plan in place can save you headaches down the line. Losing a loved one is difficult emotionally and logistically, but having an inheritance strategy in place can make your life easier down the road.
Inheritance With A Will
Having a will in place helps designate beneficiaries and determines who receives what. Wills can help avoid probate court's costly and time-consuming nature, although it may not prevent it entirely. Of course, a will doesn’t prevent anyone from contesting it, but it does tend to make things easier. Knowing if you are one of the designated beneficiaries—and having an idea of what that inheritance looks like—can help you plan for what happens when you inherit cash or other assets.1
When No Will Exists
Not having a will can make receiving an inheritance painful. Sorting out an estate can result in steep legal fees, dealing with probate, and potentially fighting with family and friends. If you’re not sure exactly what the estate entails, it could take months or years to track everything down. Then there’s the personal cost. Even if everyone agrees on how the estate should be settled, the process often takes a financial, mental, and emotional toll.2
If there are assets other than cash to divide up, sorting through an estate without a will becomes exponentially more complicated. Life insurance, real estate, and assets other than cash may be subject to different inheritance rules. Spouses often receive additional tax breaks and incentives for an inheritance, and many adult children and other relatives don’t have that luxury.2,3
Creating an inheritance strategy also allows you to help make sure your loved one’s estate is in order. You don’t want to wait until after your loved one is gone to discover, for example, that an ex-spouse is still listed as a beneficiary on a life insurance policy.
The Pitfalls of Inheritance
While many of us dream of a lump sum of cash falling into our laps, the reality of inheritance can be a little less rosy. Cash typically doesn’t fall under the heading of taxable income, but if you received that income in the form of royalties or the deceased’s company bonus, that might have the IRS view this as a source of income.4 Inheriting real estate means that you now have a property that requires maintenance and upkeep as long as you hold onto it. And while it used to be easy to shelter stocks and mutual funds into a so-called “stretch IRA,” the SECURE Act abolished this option for everyone but a surviving spouse or minor child.5
Don’t Quit Your Dayjob
Just because you’ve received a large inheritance doesn’t mean it’s time to quit your day job and retire to luxurious living on a tropical island. According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, an estimated 70% of people who receive a large inheritance spend it all within a few years.2 Having a plan can make it easier to stay on track before the temptation to spend hits your bank account.
Even in the best circumstances, dealing with an inheritance can be complicated. Remember, even if you’re not expecting a large amount of money or property from an estate, it still behooves you to have a strategy in place. It’s important not to make any significant decisions or to suddenly change your spending habits just because more assets are now available to you. If you have any questions on the estate process or how to plan for an expected inheritance, book a meeting with us today.
While planning for an inheritance can feel like eliciting a bad omen of sorts, it is arguably a worse practice to not plan at all. However, if done correctly, inheritance planning can benefit multiple generations of family members, close friends, or even charitable causes. There is no shortage of statistics showing how much of a family's wealth can go to taxes, court systems, legal fees, and other avoidable costs if not set up correctly. The number one way to start planning out the roadmap for a family's wealth legacy is to begin the conversation and encourage open communication among all parties.
Proverbs 12:5(NKJV) says, "The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty." A will written and signed on someone's death bed before their last breath may sound like a good scene out of a movie, but it is not a prudent way of stewarding wealth that the next generation or even third generation will be able to allocate to the greater good. Inheritance planning, as opposed to strictly estate planning, carries a softer side to it. While an effective tax mitigation strategy or large tax-deductible charitable contributions are great for the bottom line, how can we find a deeper connection to our intentions behind the money? What are you hoping to accomplish if you receive this inheritance you are expecting? How will this money help you pursue causes that you feel passionate about? If money was no object, how would you spend the time and resources you possess?
Evergreen Financial Group is a Fee-Only Financial Planning and Investment Firm located in Billings, MT serving clients in Montana, Wyoming and virtually across the country. Evergreen Financial Group specializes in working with Christian families, including Young Professionals, Current and Future Retirees and Church Staff Members.
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