With tax season behind us, we have started to reflect on the amount of people that we saw in our office and
some of the stark realities that we discovered while serving the public. Estate planning is not a sexy topic. But that’s why, as we’ve been preparing people’s 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 JTWROS”. 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, (which, by the way, we had an awesome season, and thank you so very much for using us), 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 will work diligently through April, May, and June to try to schedule appointments with all of 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. When it comes to estate planning, it’s only obvious when you have a trust, but many people may have a Will and Testament and you wouldn’t know from the tax documents. 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 probably consider having a living trust but does not. 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.
Long story short, we want anyone and everyone that has just completed their tax return or put themselves on extension to take us up on this free offer:
Let us review your current estate plan, determine what you need to have happen, and then look through the titling on your accounts to make sure that what you want to have happen, if you’re disabled, or if you die, will actually happen, in real time. Then we will help guide you as to any paperwork that can be done to correct issues that we find. If we determine that you should see an attorney, we will definitely make the recommendation as well. You can find a local attorney or we can provide one from our national network. 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. Take us up on this offer. Don’t come back in our offices a year from today with the same lack of estate planning clarity. You never know when something is going to happen; when it’s going to be your turn. This is an easy thing to fix, and this review is free!
Call us at (734) 437-1888 or email us at [email protected]