There are multiple ways to protect your assets. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are a number of options that should be implemented.
1. Insurance: Depending on your assets and profession, you should have various policies to adequately cover potential losses. For example; 1) Renter's Insurance if you rent property; 2) Homeowner's Insurance with an Umbrella Rider is you own your home; 3) Automobile Insurance to cover each vehicle you own/drive; 4) Business Insurance if you own a business to cover general liability, professional liability/malpractice, and employment practices.
2. Marital Property Planning: If you are contemplating marriage, the first method of asset protection is a Prenuptial Agreement to protect the assets you bring to the marriage from a divorce. If you are already married, you can still enter into a Postnuptial Agreement. Marriage itself can also provide some protection by carefully titling assets in either both or one of the spouses' names.
3. Business Entities: You can have a business entity hold assets to limit liability between your business and your personal assets.
4. Comprehensive Estate Plan with Trust(s): You can establish specific types of trusts to hold some or all of your assets to protect them from variety of situations including, bankruptcy, creditors, divorce, and estate taxes.
What is your Net Worth?
Assets - Liabilities = Estate Net Worth
Real Estate $__________
Personal Property $__________
Insurance Policy Cash Value $__________
Retirement Accounts $__________
Business Interests $__________
Life Insurance Benefit $__________
Mortgage Balance $__________
Credit Card Debt $__________
Total Estate Net Worth $__________
What Happens to My Assets When I Die?
Any assets that are titled in your name alone will be frozen when you pass away. They have to be retitled in another person's name. How do you to figure out who gets what? If you would like a simplistic overview of who would get your property if something happened to you, follow along here.
1. Make a list of property you own.
2. Beside each piece of property, note how you own the property.
In other words, how is it titled?
In your name, with another person, in trust for someone?
3. Use this chart to see who would get what.
Property you own by yourself? The beneficiaries named in your Will inherit the property. If you don’t have a Will, the state will divide your property according to the laws of intestacy.
Property you own with another person, jointly with rights of survivorship? The “joint” owner of the property will own the property upon your death.
Property in which you act as a trustee? The beneficiaries named in the trust will receive the property as dictated by the trust directions.
4. Who does the state give my property to if I don’t have a Will? This is a complicated question, but a general breakdown will follow this a list like this:
First, some would go to your spouse
Then rest to your children.
If you don’t have a living spouse or children, then to Blood Relatives (some of which will come out of the “woodwork”).
If no relatives, then to the state.
How Much Does Probate Cost and Can It Be Avoided?
The cost depends on the amount you own, how it is titled, and how much planning you do to avoid probate.
Voluntary Administration (meaning your probate estate is less than $25,000 in MA for example) involves court filing fees, potential probate attorney fees, Personal Representative fees, and asset sales fees. Most likely, this process will cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Probate Procedure: This is time consuming, usually 12-18 months, and expensive, averages 5% of estate.
Breakdown of Costs
Executor/Personal Representative Fees and Expenses
Probate Attorney Fees (at least to guide Executor/Personal Representative)
Court filing fees
Surety Bond (if not waived)
Notification to Creditors (mailing, publishing)
Accounting (prepare inventory, account for monies spent during probate, tax filings)
Transfer of Property (recording fees, broker fees, and delivery)
Taxes (income, estate)
The good news is that you can avoid a probate procedure with careful, proactive planning! Contact us to schedule your Family Plan Session to learn how to protect your assets and avoid an expensive, public, and (often times) painful probate procedure!