Like most people, you may fail to use your Will or Living Trust to its full potential. You should “program your wishes” to live on after you die. It should be your “periscope from the grave” to accomplish the major goals of inheritance planning.

Goal #1: Prevent inheritance conflicts among your children.  Use your inheritance plan to equalize between the children, not assuming that each child and in-law will act perfectly when they divide the estate.

Goal #2:  Protect the money from your children’s potential problems.  Take steps to shield your assets from the human and economic problems that may arise. These may include divorces; financial problems involving creditors; business failures; serious illness; or just financial immaturity.  By having a proper inheritance plan, when your child dies, whatever is left will be available for your grandchildren or other heirs.

Goal #3:  Every inheritance plan requires you to name an agent who will carry out your instructions after your death.  This “agent” is your Executor (if a Will) or a Successor Trustee (if a Living Trust). The effectiveness of any plan is entirely dependent on the person you name as your “agent”.

Goal #4: Plan to protect your assets for your surviving spouse.  Unless otherwise directed, your assets will automatically go to your surviving spouse, and when your spouse dies, like most people, you expect your assets will then go to your children or other heirs. There are issues to address with respect to this reality.  Your surviving spouse may remarry; unscrupulous third parties may influence your spouse to part with the family wealth; your children may pressure your spouse for an “early inheritance”. Appropriate countermeasures can be incorporated in your inheritance plan.

As tax season ends, it becomes an opportune time to take a look at your estate planning to recognize if there are any changes or additions that should be made.  Most Importantly, program your inheritance plans to keep your children and property out of Probate Court.  There are many ways to spare your heirs the expenses and hassles of the probate process.

Be Educated! Be Proactive!