Integrating your personal values into your estate plan is an important part of passing on your legacy. Learn some of your options for making sure money is used wisely, keeping it from the daughter-in-law you barely know (or don’t like), and making charitable gifts here.
When most people think of estate planning they think solely of transferring their assets to the next generation upon their death. A comprehensive plan should also address the issues beyond the initial transfer, ensuring that your estate plan actually passes on your personal values in addition to your assets.
Keeping Assets in the Family
You might think that if you don’t name your daughter-in-law in your estate plan she won’t receive the inheritance you intend for your own child, but that’s not the way it works. In reality, once your child receives an inheritance, if he or she puts it into the family bank account, home, business, or other asset, if they later divorce, their future ex-spouse typically receives 50% of the inheritance you worked hard to leave for your child.
Even if the inheritance is kept separate from their spouse, despite Colorado laws that try to protect the inheritance from being considered a marital asset (and thus being divided upon divorce), sometimes courts divide the inheritance anyway. We’ve seen this happen on multiple occasions.
There are very simple ways within your estate plan to ensure that your child’s future ex-spouse will not be able to make a claim against any inheritance you leave to your child. If you want to ensure your money stays in the bloodline, a good estate planning attorney can include protections no matter what happens in the future of your child’s marriage.
Spendthrift Protection for Adult Beneficiaries
Most of our clients say they don’t want to “control their loved ones from the grave.” We agree that’s not typically a wise strategy. However, what if you could protect your loved ones? A good estate plan can make sure that you’re continuing to promote your values even after you’ve passed away.
If you have young adult children or other loved ones to whom you’ll be leaving an inheritance, it’s important to think through how and when they will best be able to use what you’ve worked hard to leave them. For example, a 25-year old may not have a lot of financial savvy and if he receives his entire inheritance at once may make some unwise decisions. Not out of irresponsibility, but simply because he’s never had a large chunk of money before. Spreading an inheritance out, maybe 1/3 at age 25, 1/3 at 30, and the remainder at age 35, can be helpful and allow them the opportunity to practice without making decisions that affect their entire inheritance.
Maybe you want to give your children time to develop a work ethic and live on a tight financial budget before they receive a chunk of money. There are a number of ways to help point them to the values that are important to you. Some of our clients wait until their children are 30 or older, having been financially responsible for themselves for a time, before they receive a single penny. You might want to match your child’s annual income, giving them an incentive to work. You can even reward them for saving their own money, or match whatever they contribute as a down payment on a home. The options are endless, and figuring out the right plan for your family starts with discussing your values with your estate planning attorney.
You don’t have to be ultra-wealthy to make a difference in the world when you are gone. There are a variety of ways to make gifts to your favorite charities when you die, while still taking care of your family and loved ones.
(We all feel good when we give money to our favorite causes, whether they are environmental, political, religious or social.)