At first glance, a Wealth Transfer plan may sound like a task that is outside your skill set. Don’t despair, with a few tips and some help from trusted advisors we can make it happen. Let’s discuss a few ideas that can bring a Wealth Transfer plan from a vague concept to a fruitful reality!
1. Prepare an Asset Inventory. Put together a list of all assets and determine where and how they are held. This step is necessary for you to fully understand your current situation and how best to move forward. Be sure to have the proper legal documents in place.
2. Consult an Attorney. Discuss your wishes with an attorney to determine the best way to dispose of your assets at death. This may include topics such as titling of assets, updating beneficiaries on life insurance policies and/or retirement plans, gifting of assets both during your lifetime and at your passing. You and your attorney may decide a Trust is in order.
3. Review & File Documents. Ensure all legal documents are filed with the required parties. Example: Depending on where you live, you may be able to file your will with the local probate court. This is not required, however it may make the estate distribution process much easier for whomever you choose as their Personal Representative or Estate Executor. Also, an updated/changed account beneficiary is only recognized if the form has been accepted and processed by the administrator of the account. Be sure to return any updated beneficiary forms to the account administrator promptly!
4. Gift in Your Lifetime. If applicable, begin by making tax efficient gifts, whether it be to a spouse, family member, charity, etc. Depending on your estate complexity and size, this process could save your heirs thousands of dollars in taxes. This can also ensure that the right people (or organizations) receive your intended gift. This may allow some of your assets to bypass probate court, thereby saving your heirs the time and cost of the probate process.
5. Consider a Trust. As mentioned in Step 2, a well-written Trust may allow you the opportunity to control the disposition of your assets after your passing or “from beyond the grave.” A Trust provides you the opportunity to designate a Trustee who must follow your directions within the Trust concerning how and when the assets within the trust can be distributed. As with any legal document, please discuss the pros and cons with an Attorney, preferably an Estate Attorney.
As you can see, the wealth transfer process entails various avenues based upon your financial situation. On the surface the process may seem overwhelming. However, when broken down into a step-by-step process it can be achieved in an orderly fashion. Remember, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Don’t wait to begin your walk towards a well-constructed wealth transfer plan.
Download our Generational Wealth Transfer Checklist to guide you through the main steps.
John W. Cooper, CFP® is a Private Client Advisor with Greenwood Capital working with individuals, families, and foundations. John helps his clients create a financial plan that will address their goals and objectives for both the short-term and for generations in the future.
The information contained within has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed for accuracy. The opinions expressed are subject to change from time to time and do not constitute a recommendation to purchase or sell any security nor to engage in any particular investment strategy. Investment Advisory Services are offered through Greenwood Capital Associates, LLC, an SEC-registered investment advisor.