What will happen to your assets when you die?

In the same vein of our recent "news you can use" articles on umbrella insurance and the TreasuryDirect program, today we focus on two important (and under-utilized) estate planning tools: wills and living trusts.

Wills and living trusts make sense for those who are married, have children, own real estate, have financial or other material assets, and/or wish to influence how their estate is distributed after their death. I'm guessing the vast majority of folks reading this fall into at least one of these categories.

Yes, this is morbid territory to tread into. But it's important.

A few months ago, right after I published What Really Matters, a good friend died suddenly of a heart attack at age 42. There was no warning. He was a former college athlete, still-fit, and died on the basketball court during his weekly practice. He left behind a wife and three children, one with life-long special needs.

Fortunately, my friend was a lawyer, and had practiced what he preached professionally. He had put a well-constructed estate plan in place while alive (along with a healthy life insurance policy).

I saw first-hand the great benefits this gave his family upon his sudden passing. They were able to fully focus on dealing with their grief, as the estate plan largely took care of all the legal and financial details in the background.

If you've had an immediate family member or close friend pass away, you're likely aware of the tremendous number of tasks and decisions that need to be dealt with when someone dies. Aside from the obvious treatment of their remains and funerary arrangements, the deceased's estate needs to be settled.

This means an executor needs to be appointed who will manage the process, creditors need to be paid as will any estate taxes, heirs need to be identified and assets distributed among them (which in many cases requires selling/disposition of these assets first), care for minor children needs to be arranged, etc. This process is oftentimes managed by the state (i.e., slowly and often inefficiently).

This is an awful lot to put a surviving spouse through (assuming there is one) during a time of extreme grief. The same goes for children.

And this burden gets compounded if there's no estate plan in place. What assets did the deceased own? Where are they? Whom did he/she want to inherit them? All of these questions need to be answered during the estate settlement process.

Imagine trying to untangle all this right after your spouse, parent, sibling or friend has died. When you're already emotionally traumatized.

Now imagine that the heirs involved don't agree on how the estate should be divided, and infighting ensues. Relationships can easily get permanently damaged and money quickly drained should expensive lawyers get involved to contest the matter. The situation often gets very ugly, very quickly. (Click here for a sampling of horror stories resulting from when folks died without a will.)

Why risk putting your loved ones through this? Especially when it's so easily avoidable, and relatively inexpensive to do so?

Look, every one of us is going to die. That's the only rock-solid guarantee we're given during our time on Earth.

You've worked hard your whole life to take care of those important to you. Don't drop the ball on the 1-yard line. Take care of them in your death, too.

Wills & Living Trusts

The bedrock of a good estate plan involves a will and a living trust. I'll explain the role of each, the differences between the two, and the wisdom of having both.

NOTE: What follows is a summarization. While wills and living trusts are fairly simple conceptually, there are lots of special cases. Many of those are not addressed below so as not to prevent this article from becoming densely encyclopedic. Also, I am not a lawyer -- meaning: take this synopsis as education, not personal legal advice. If you want that, consult an estate lawyer.

OK, with that out of the way, let's proceed.

Will

Most folks are familiar with the concept of a will. Every murder mystery usually has a scene where the family gathers at the lawyer's office to hear the reading of the late victim's will: "Being of sound mind, I hereby bequeath to my nephew, Chauncey, my collection of rare Amazonian butterflies..."

Simply put, a will is a legal document that specifies:

  • how you want your assets distributed upon your death,
  • whom you grant the power to oversee that distribution (i.e., your "executor"), and
  • whom you want to have guardianship of your minor children, should there be any

Sounds like something every responsible adult should have, right? I agree.

But amazingly, 63% of US adults do not have a will. And an additional 9% have a will that's no longer up to date. Even among the more affluent, 45% do not have a will.

So those ugly issues I mentioned above of what can happen when you die without a will? They're very real and actually happen a lot.

Which is criminal, as a will is a straightforward document that shouldn't cost you more than a few hundred dollars (at most) and a few days to create (I'll give more specifics on the will creation process in Part 2). There really aren't any good reasons why the vast majority of us, especially those with minor children, shouldn't have one.

The key downside to note with a will is that it's subject to probate. Probate is the judicial process that determines the validity of the deceased's will. None of the instructions laid out in your will can be undertaken until a court accepts its validity and "grants probate" to your specified executor.

Probate isn't much fun. It takes time: typically a few months, but it can last years in certain cases. It can be costly: expect to pay somewhere between 3-8% of your estate's assets in combined attorney, court and other fees.

Probate can be challenging for real estate, especially investment properties. Until these assets have passed probate, your heirs (including your spouse) cannot manage or dispose of them. They're locked in limbo, which can get quite inconvenient if the probate period stretches for many months or years.

It's also a public process. During the probate period, your will is made available upon request to anyone who asks for it. So the details of your estate and your disposition wishes are not kept private. And your will can be challenged in court during this time by anyone who feels they have a valid claim on your assets.

Which brings us to Living Trusts...

Living Trusts

A trust is a legal arrangement in which one or more people manage or take care of property for someone else's benefit.

There are several major benefits you can enjoy by placing your assets into a trust to manage them while you're alive (that's why it's called a "living" trust). One of them is avoiding probate upon your death.

Once your assets have been placed inside a living trust, they're managed by its Trustees on behalf of clearly-specified Beneficiaries. So with ownership transfer, executorship and distribution are already worked out -- the probate court doesn't need to get involved.

For most couples, this allows the surviving partner to retain seamless control of all Trust assets after the other dies. The assets don't go through the probate process, there are far less fees involved, and the process is private. (The estate still can be contested, though. But the details of the estate's assets don't have to be made available to the public upon request.)

Avoiding probate is just one of the advantages offered by living trusts.

Another big one is (potentially) reducing estate taxes. I'll spare you the wonky details for now, but there are ways for your trust to take advantage of deductions and credits that may materially reduce the estate tax liability on your wealth after you and/or your surviving spouse die. Any estate lawyer or tax accountant worth their salt can walk you through the details.

Your living trust will also enable you to control how your assets flow to your heirs. If you have minor children, most states won't let them own property directly while they're 17 or younger. And if you're passing along a substantial amount of wealth, giving it to all to them at age 18 in a lump sum is a bad idea (unless you want the inheritance squandered in an epic blast of debauchery).

Via your trust, you can specify how you want your assets (and any associated income from them) to be meted out to each heir over time -- based on age milestones, financial need, use (e.g., education), mental competency, or any other conditions important to you.

Similarly, a living trust is helpful in keeping your assets managed the way you want should you become incapacitated (i.e., still living, but not able to mentally or physically manage your affairs). For many of us, living too long may become the bigger risk to our estate vs dying too soon.

Last, the most common form of living Trust is amendable throughout your life. You can change it at anytime, as often as you like. Or you can dissolve it altogether. The bottom line is, you're in full control over everything while you're alive (and mentally competent).

Getting Started

OK, as a refresher:

  • A will is a good idea for pretty much everyone. But it's especially important for people with minor children. A trust does not specify legal guardianship in the event of your death. Only a will does that.
  • A living trust makes sense for anyone with assets and heirs (especially your spouse) they want to pass their wealth along to. Some experts say living trusts make sense if you expect your estate to be worth over $150,000; others go as low as $20,000.

The cost to set these up is pretty trivial compared to the huge benefits they can offer your loved ones. A will costs a few hundred bucks (or less) to set up and can be completed in a matter of days (or less). A living trust will range between several hundred and a few thousand dollars, depending on how sizable/complicated your estate is.

In Part 2: A Primer On The Essentials For Your Will & Living Trust, we walk through in detail the principal legal elements that your will and living trust should address. This includes specific clauses your documents should contain (unless advised otherwise by a professional), as well as helpful context for the most common decisions folks will face when creating/updating these legal vehicles.

If you don't yet have a will and/or a living trust, or it's been a while since you've reviewed the ones you have, read on. Your loved ones will be glad you did.

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

With cops under fire, businesses destroyed, and innocent civilians beaten and killed, where is the justice that well-meaning protesters were seeking for George Floyd?

On Wednesday night's special, Glenn Beck goes one on one with Blexit founder and "Blackout" author Candace Owens about what's really driving the riots, white privilege in America, and why it sickens her that Floyd has become a martyr for Black America.

Watch the full special below:

Use code GLENN to save $10 on one year of BlazeTV.

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Award-winning investigative journalist Lara Logan told Glenn Beck on the radio program Wednesday that a network of radical extremist terrorist organizations, which includes Antifa, are coordinating and escalating many of the violent riots in the wake of George Floyd's death.

Lara, who has done extensive reporting on Antifa, said it's "extraordinary" that so many Americans in the media and politics are defending the "very violent terrorist organization."

"[The media is] pretending that they care about journalism. They don't. They care about silencing, intimidating, destroying, annihilating, and getting us all to self-sensor so we don't cover any of the subjects they don't want us talking about," she said.

"For those of us who've followed [Antifa] for a while, and know what they're doing and what their agenda is, what has always been troubling is the way so many people in the media and in the political establishment have given them cover to operate," Laura added. "These are extremists. And you see a lot of parallels between extremists on the left and the right ... they pretty much operate the same way, exactly. And there's no difference between what Antifa is doing and the 'Brown Shirts' of Nazi Germany. Or the 'Black Shirts' of Mussolini."

She read the 10 points of action listed by an extremist group called the "Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement", which culminates with "Liberation begins where America dies."

Glenn recalled a prediction he made approximately 15 years ago, that "socialist, communists, radicals, anarchists, [and] Islamists would all work together ... they would all see the opportunity and work toward the same goal. And that's destruction of capitalism, and destruction of the Western world."

"A few years ago, I probably would not have agreed with you on that," Laura responded. "But I now see that you're absolutely correct."

Watch the video below to hear Lara detail evidence to expose the truth about Antifa:

Media targets Lara Logan for exposing the truth about Antifa

The media pretends to care about good journalism, but what they really care about silencing, intimidating, destroying, annihilating and getting us all to...


Use code GLENN to save $10 off one year of your subscription.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

The Trump-deranged media is calling the president a "coward" because he was moved to an underground bunker as riots erupted outside the White House over the weekend.

Former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino joined the "Glenn Beck Radio Program" Tuesday to set the record straight. He told Glenn that under Title 18, US Code 3056, the Secret Service has the authority to protect the president however they deem necessary, with or without his consent.

Dan explained that the severity of the White House riots, which resulted in at least 50 Secret Service agents being injured, would very likely have warranted overriding the president's preference on whether or not to take shelter.

"Shame on the media ... for painting this as some kind of situation where Trump ran like a coward," Dan said. "Which is totally false and made-up. [...] They're morons. These are imbeciles with double digit IQs who are only in this to aggravate an already-bad situation. And it's a shame, because they're really incentivizing this kind of stuff to happen."

He also made it clear that the so-called protests over the death of George Floyd were actually "very strategic" riots organized by "Antifa terrorists."

"It was not even a protest. It should have been, and could have been ... but that's not what it was. It was an insurrection. It was a riot," Dan stated.

"I can tell you, from sources of mine that were there, [who are] more than credible and unimpeachable, that the attack at the White House -- and that's what it was over a period of days -- was very organized. It was done using very strategic tactics," he added. "I want to be crystal clear, this was organized by Antifa terrorists. It's not a joke. It's not hyperbole. These were people that were committed to an insurrection that was thankfully put down."

Watch the video below for more details:

Dan Bongino: Trump is NOT a Coward Hiding in a Bunker


Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multiplatform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

The media has been trying to discredit BlazeTV's Elijah Schaffer after he recorded a disturbing video of a man being brutally beaten and stoned almost to death by rioters Saturday evening in Dallas.

Elijah joined Glenn Beck on the radio program Monday to set the record straight.

"The very dishonest far-left media is working tirelessly at the moment to completely, not only discredit myself, but they always say, 'Elijah Schaffer who works for Glenn Beck's BlazeTV.' As if that's an insult. So I'm going to clear the air right now," he told Glenn.

"There was a group of about, I would say 150 rioters. They were not protesters. They were breaking windows. They broke into a bank. They broke into a bar. They were looting alcohol and partying on the streets while breaking glass. These were not people who were grieving over black lives," he added. "The police had lost control of the city."

Elijah went on to describe the violent scene, detailing the events leading up to the brutal beating of a man who was apparently trying to defend a local bar. Elijah posted a video of the incident on Twitter Saturday night.

*Warning: graphic content*

"Rioters with rocks and bricks and bats and weapons, 150 or more, were accosting him as he stood in front of the bar," Elijah said. "Then they started stoning him, Glenn! Medieval! Throwing rocks and bricks.... We're in America. This is 2020. We do not stone people in the United States of America!"

Watch the video below for more details:

*Warning: graphic content*

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multiplatform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.