Three Estate Planning Tips for Modern Families

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our estate planning lawyers are experienced in the area of legacy planning. An estate plan helps you decide which family members and friends receive your assets. Legacy planning focuses on preserving your financial legacy. The goal of estate planning is to allow your wealth to transfer to your beneficiaries while avoiding inheritor pitfalls and taxes along the way.

You have spent a lifetime working hard to build your wealth, and estate planning allows you to offer the next generation a lasting legacy. Many of our clients with significant assets want to leave their children and grandchildren their wealth, but they are concerned about the next generation losing the motivation to build their wealth. By engaging in estate planning, you can ensure that you place the necessary guardrails on how your loved ones use the funds you give them, helping them build their careers along the way. Below, we will discuss some tips for estate planning in our modern era.

Estate Planning for Non-Traditional Families

Modern families often look different than they did for older generations. For example, marriage rates have decreased, and many parents are not married. What happens when one parent dies? If the other parent is not married, he or she will not immediately inherit any property that the parents do not own jointly with a right to survivorship. Under North Carolina's intestacy laws, the partner will not inherit any property.

Additionally, when people remarry with children, estate planning becomes even more important. Would you like all of your biological children and stepchildren to inherit your assets equally? Were you not involved in your stepchildren’s lives because you married their parents after they were already adults? These are all important questions that will need to be addressed in your estate plan. Your estate planning attorney will be able to carefully consider your family's unique situation and focus on building an estate plan tailored to meet your goals.

Focus on Communication

If your estate includes a family-owned business, or you are part of charitable trusts with your family members, communication is essential. Now more than ever, family members are living all across the country, or even internationally. Running a family business or charity with your family members can be challenging when family members are spread across the world. Typically, meetings involving estate planning and trust management take place face-to-face.

Mail communication and face-to-face meetings have become even more difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic. Consider adding more ways to effectively communicate with your loved ones regarding your charitable trusts or other estate documents. For example, email and other electronic means can be effective tools to communicate these matters, while text and social media messages may be less effective due to the more casual nature of the platform. Keeping consistent, effective contact will make it easier for the younger generation in your family to stay connected with your family legacy.

Keep Your Estate Plan Flexible When Necessary

For many of us, our modern family's change frequently. Perhaps your adult children have gotten married and had children, or even gotten divorced. Maybe some members of your family have partners that are not married or have recently adopted children. Our lives are flexible, and there are multiple ways in which your estate planning documents can provide you the flexibility you need.

You may want to consider a power of appointment. An individual with the power of appointment can decide where to direct certain assets within the estate. Make sure that if you choose to set up a power of appointment, you work with an estate planning lawyer, so you do not make the powers so broad that they undermine your personal estate planning goals.

You can also appoint trust protectors who have the right to direct the trustee in their decision making. They also have the right to make other important decisions related to the trust. Appointing a trust protector can help you provide an extra check and balance to ensure your trustee is doing the right thing for your heirs. Finally, you may want to consider flexible distribution options. During this process, you appoint a trustee who can make decisions regarding distribution to heirs while following your general guidelines.

Contact a Charlotte Estate Planning Lawyer

Leaving a lasting legacy for your children and grandchildren is an important goal. The estate planning attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, can help you achieve this goal. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation at our Charlotte, Mooresville, or Monroe offices.