Are you considering your legacy and how to distribute your assets after you pass away? Perhaps you want to fund your grandchildren’s education or help your grown children get started on their retirement nest egg. Maybe you have assets that hold sentimental value that you would like to distribute to specific relatives.
An estate plan can help you accomplish these goals and more. Your estate plan should prioritize your objectives and offer a strategy. It should also identify risks and challenges, such as taxes, end-of-life costs and even probate expenses.
One potential risk is the existence of debt. Many retirees try to minimize debt before they end their career. However, that’s not always possible. Unexpected costs always arise, even in retirement. You could have credit card debt, mortgages, medical bills and more.
Any leftover debt could reduce the amount of assets that go to your heirs. When you pass away, many of your assets will likely pass through a process called probate. That’s the legal process for settling an estate, and it often includes notifying heirs, liquidating assets, distributing inheritances and other tasks.
Paying final debts is an important part of probate. Your creditors could actually file liens and judgments against your estate, tying up your assets and restricting the distribution of your funds.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize the burden of your debt and protect your legacy. Below are three steps to consider. If you have debt and are worried about its impact on your estate, consider implementing these action items in your estate plan.
Reduce your debt levels.
Perhaps the most effective way to limit the impact of debt on your estate is to take steps to reduce your debt while you’re alive. For example, if you have credit card debt, consider developing a strategy to pay it off. If you owe back taxes and penalties to the IRS, contact the agency to negotiate a payoff plan.
Also, think about loans on which you may be a co-signer. For example, did you co-sign your children’s student loans? If so, the lender could demand that the balance be paid after your death. You may want to work with your child and the lender to see if you can be removed as a co-signer so the balance doesn’t hold up your estate distribution.
Provide liquidity to your estate.
Sometimes it’s not the debt that causes estate problems, but rather the illiquidity in the estate. An individual may pass away with medical debt, credit card debt or other loans. The person’s assets may be illiquid property, like real estate or collectibles. There may be few liquid assets available, such as cash or investments.
In these cases, the estate executor may be forced to sell assets to generate cash to pay the debt. That can be especially difficult for heirs if the assets have sentimental value. You can minimize this risk by creating liquidity for your estate. Consider using life insurance as a tool to leave cash for your heirs. If you can’t qualify for life insurance, work to create a reserve of cash.
Protect your assets from creditors.
You also may want to utilize tools that offer some protection against creditor action. Many of these tools are beneficiary-designated products such as life insurance, annuities, IRAs and trusts. Depending on your state laws, these types of assets flow directly to the named beneficiaries without going through probate. You may want to maximize the assets in these accounts so your heirs can receive their distributions quickly, without waiting for your executor to settle outstanding debts.
Ready to protect your loved ones? Let’s talk about it. Contact us today at Heritage Financial North. We can help you analyze your needs and create a strategy. Let’s connect soon and start the conversation.
Licensed Insurance Professional. This information is designed to provide a general overview with regard to the subject matter covered and is not state specific. The authors, publisher and host are not providing legal, accounting or specific advice for your situation. By providing your information, you give consent to be contacted about the possible sale of an insurance or annuity product. This information has been provided by a Licensed Insurance Professional and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting insurance professional. The statements and opinions expressed are those of the author and are subject to change at any time. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, presenting insurance professional makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. This material has been prepared for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, accounting, legal, tax or investment advice. This information has been provided by a Licensed Insurance Professional and is not sponsored or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any government agency.
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