Is Your Estate in Order?


If you died tonight, would your estate be in order? Do you have a will that specifies who is to get what and who is to administer your estate? Remember Ben Franklin’s infamous statement, “In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes.”

While death and taxes are certain, you can make the tax impact and the distribution of your estate less painful through proper planning. Part of that planning may include different types of trust can be used to lessen the tax burden. (Consult your legal advisor.)

As a former estate planner, prior to my current real estate and auctioneering practice, I came across many strange and unusual situations that could have been rectified through proper planning, viz., a will.

Perhaps we should start by trying to define exactly what an estate is and what it includes.

An estate includes everything a person owns, both real and personal property.  An estate may descend to heirs or others, depending upon the directions of the testator (decedent) in his/her will.

Not to insult your intelligence, but some may ask, “What is included in a will that makes it so important?”  A will includes the written directions of the testator (person who died) for the distribution of his/her property after his/her demise.

Basic elements include:

• Named Personal Representative

• Directions for the distribution of the assets

• Name guardians for minor children

• Establish trust for benefit of various parties

There is simply no way for anyone to enforce your intended plan if it is not contained in a will. Families can be forever torn apart, jockeying for position over the distribution of even small amounts of property.

Recently, we were involved in an estate where there were three heirs who didn’t like each other. Two of the heirs wanted to use the auction method to liquidate the assets in the estate. The other wanted to do a yard sale for the personal property and list the real property with a friend of his. Needless to say, we were unable to help them as there was very little cooperation among them.

If the testator (the father) had had a will, it would have saved many headaches.

If you die without a will (intestate), then the state will decide who gets what. In this case, the court appointed the oldest sister as the executor while the younger brother felt it should have been him. And by the way, each heir had a key to the property. Things in the home started to disappear.

There are many elements and partners in planning an estate. Partners include:

• Auction Marketers

• Attorneys

• Certified Public Accountants

• Financial Planners and Advisors

• Trust Department Officers

• Appraisers

• Retirement Community Officials

• Hospice Officials

• Funeral Directors

It takes proper planning for all these partners to work in unison. A properly drawn will can help in coordinating all these partners. Depending upon the size of the estate, some of the partners may not be needed.

While this article was in no way intended to be a treatise on wills or estate planning, I hope it has pricked your interest in that you may need to contact your legal advisor to see if your estate is in order.

And if you need help in liquidating some of your real or personal property while you are still alive, give us a call at 252-257-4822. The next best thing is to mention us in your will. 🙂

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