It can take a lifetime to build an estate that is robust enough to support you and your loved ones. Unfortunately, passing away without a comprehensive estate plan can decimate your assets in a surprisingly short period of time. Between costly legal expenses like probate, excessive taxes on your estate and mismanagement, some or all of what you built could be lost.
Estate conservation — including the management of your assets during your lifetime and well-planned asset distribution after you are gone — makes it possible to maximize the transfer of your assets to those most important to you. Your heirs deserve the full benefits of your legacy and estate planning can ensure that they receive those benefits.
Estate Conservation — How Estate Planning Protects Your Legacy
As you get older and build more assets, it is normal to start thinking about what will happen to your estate after you pass away. You may already have very specific ideas about what you want to happen to your assets, or you may have more questions than answers. Wherever you are in the process, know that you are on the right path. Planning for the future when you are no longer here is the smart thing to do, even if it can sometimes be uncomfortable. You should be able to achieve most of your goals through proper planning with the assistance of a knowledgeable estate planning attorney.
The Main Principles of Estate Conservation
- Manage your assets during your lifetime: You have accumulated assets through hard work and determination. Good estate planning begins by ensuring that those assets are as well-managed as possible, so they grow year after year.
- Decide who will receive your assets: It may take some time and careful thought to decide exactly how you want to distribute your assets and to whom. Once you have made your decisions you need to put them down in writing in a legally binding document like a will.
- Determine how your assets will be distributed: Many times, it is necessary to manage how and when your heirs will receive your assets. You may not want them to get everything all at once, for instance.
- Choose who will manage the estate: Depending on what you have planned, you may need to choose an executor for your will, trustees for your trusts and so on.
- Consider the risks to your assets and how to minimize those risks: The bigger your assets, the more complicated this process becomes. Probate, taxes and other problems may or may not be inevitable — but even if they are inevitable, you can work to minimize the damage they do to your estate as it passes to your heirs.
- Set aside liquid capital: Some expenses need to be addressed quickly as they arise, such as the cost for burial, income taxes and settlements.
Common Tools in Estate Planning
One of the big challenges with estate planning is deciding exactly what steps you need to take to protect your assets. Every individual has a different set of needs. Your estate may consist of your family home and retirement account, or it may include a wide array of assets like investments, property, luxury goods, family heirlooms and more. A skilled estate planning attorney will take the time to get the full picture of what your assets are and to understand exactly what your wishes are for the future. Once they have a firm handle on your circumstances and goals, they will choose the right tools to conserve your estate. These tools may include:
- Wills: A last will and testament is the best-known estate planning tool. It puts down in writing how you want your assets distributed. Everyone should have a will, even if they have only a few assets, because it helps avoid confusion when it is time to distribute those assets. However, only having a will means that your heirs will have to go through probate — which is expensive and time-consuming — before they can access your assets.
- Trusts: You can avoid probate and keep your estate away from public scrutiny with a trust. There are different kinds of trusts, including revocable and irrevocable trusts. Each offers advantages and disadvantages that are worth discussing with your attorney.
- Living will: Should you become unable to make decisions about your care, a living will dictates who you want to make those decisions for you.
Learn More About How to Protect Your Assets
Our team at Atlanta Wills + Trusts Law Group by Refeca Law LLC is here to help you protect your assets. Please contact us to learn more about your options for estate conservation.