Passing along assets after death is a tricky business – and subject to error. Aside from the complexity, making a will and other plans for heirs requires periodic updates because circumstances change.
Leaving an inheritance behind can be the easiest part. Any possessions that outlive you become the inheritance of another just like that. In fact, the laws of every state provide for the “intestate succession” of assets for which there are zero post-mortem plans in place.
Then again, that is not the kind of potential mess we want to leave behind (or how we want to be remembered). As the old adage puts it, most folks do not “plan to fail, they just fail to plan.” In this sense, leaving an inheritance behind can get a bit tricky and can take some expert guidance to do it well.
This business of leaving an inheritance was taken up by Forbes recently in an article titled “How To Inherit Wealth Without Screwing Up.” (Incidentally, it is hard to inherit wealth without screwing it up, but this piece has far more to do with the ways you can leave it behind and screw it up, in spite of the title).
When it comes to inheritance planning, there is the will itself and then there is the estate plan. For all the drama (both literary and real drama) surrounding the will, it only does so much. Truly, the will only assists with the probate process, but that has nothing to do with retirement accounts that have a named beneficiary, insurance policies that have named beneficiaries, bank accounts that transfer on death, or assets held jointly with rights of survivorship. Not to mention a host of other sources of legal and fiduciary clutter.
The estate plan is the concept that pulls it all together and considers your life, your assets, and your family in a holistic way.
The key point of the article is that leaving an inheritance requires understanding and appreciating the big picture. To get it down right, for the good of your family, it helps to have competent legal counsel in your corner and after you have such a plan review it regularly (at least every two years).
Reference: Forbes (November 22, 2013) “How To Inherit Wealth Without Screwing Up”