Estate planning is not a sexy topic. That’s why - as we’ve been preparing client tax returns this year - we came to realize that because it’s not a sexy topic, it’s almost completely non-existent in our community.
How do we know that from doing tax returns? Because estate planning is all about titling.
There are many, many options for estate planning, but generally speaking, there are three basic options that most people fall under.
Option 1: No plan at all.
Option 2: A Last Will and Testament.
Option 3: Some form of Trust. Usually a Living Revocable Trust.
As we reviewed people’s documents, bank statements, mortgage statements, savings accounts, brokerage accounts, etc., it became clear which people had some start to their estate planning. For instance, a couple brings in a bank account during tax preparation and the title on the account is “John Smith and Mary Smith JWTOS”.
This means that the account is owned together, and if one should become disabled, the other would not have any issue with going to that bank and withdrawing funds. Or, if one should pass away, the other need not have to go to the probate court or some other means in order to get permission to receive the dollars.
Without such titling, even being married, many people find themselves having to go through some form of court procedure to touch funds that are titled singly in their spouse’s name.
Most couples don’t ever do this sort of thing on purpose, here’s an example: Mary is at the bank alone, needs to open an account, and without her husband there for the signature on the card, the bank will only set up the account in her name. “We’ll get around to getting my husband’s name on that account when it’s convenient.” And of course, it is then forgotten, and the update never happens.
As we reviewed tax return after tax return, we realized that our work here is far from done!
Tax season, except for those on extension, may have come and gone, but at our office, we declare it “help people with their estate planning” season!
We work diligently all year long for our clients and anyone else reading this blog who cares to review estate planning options and titling so they don’t find out by accident that their access to their own capital is somehow different after a crisis than the way they would have it if they had a few minutes to reflect.
Even though we’re not attorneys, we work with a network of attorneys closely in our practice, and we know that when somebody has a complex family asset like a business, or a second marriage, a divorce, a prenuptial agreement, etc., that the titling of assets needs to reflect those estate planning goals, and so it becomes obvious who should consider a living trust. Married couples with a second home, sometimes in another state, multiple accounts, or each having children from a previous marriage, with very few exceptions, are generally better served by a living trust, according to most of the attorneys that we work with.
If you have a trust, the titling would reflect it. For instance “John and Mary Smith RLTR”, or “John and Mary Smith TTEE” (which means they are the trustees of a trust document and the trust), owns the savings account, checking account, property, etc
Either way, we realize during tax season that estate planning is not sexy, and that it’s often ignored - so this is your call to action. Get in touch with us today.