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)

These TOP 5 new technologies left Glenn SHOCKED

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Glenn has been covering some of the most groundbreaking, exciting, and often terrifying technological advances. Some new tech has the potential to make a positive impact. Some tech is just SUPER cool, like a flame-throwing robot dog. However, there is also a dark side to technology. Glenn exposes how some new technological developments, particularly in the realm of AI, pose serious ethical questions.

Here are the top five new technologies that Glenn covered that will make your jaw drop:

Anti-gravity device

This new technology developed by Dr. Charles Buhler and his team may change everything we know about transportation and travel. Described as "propellant-less propulsion" by Dr. Buhler, this technology appears to defy gravity and is potentially a way for people to travel into and through space without the need for rockets. It doesn't stop there either, this tech could be used to forever change the way we travel here on Earth.

Human embryo-powered supercomputer

To have massively powerful AI, something, which many people seem to have an invested interest in, you need a lot of electricity to power the computers that host the artificial intelligences. Naturally, this energy consumption upsets the environmentalists so in response a terrifying solution was developed. Bio Processors are essentially computer chips powered by human cells, specifically stem cells, which are predominantly harvested from embryos. These Bio Processors have a limited shelf life, meaning they need a steady supply of stem cells to keep the computers that use them operational. What could be more terrifying than an AI that eats human cells?

Voice-stealing AI

When ChatGPT came out in late 2022 its power and versatility took the world by storm. Suddenly, students had it write entire essays in mere seconds, and it was creating songs and poems with ease. The capabilities of the ChatGPT AI were as disturbing as they were impressive, but after a recent update, it took a hard turn towards disturbing. OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, decided to give the program a voice and tried to recruit famous actress Scarlett Johansson to lend her voice to the machine. After she declined the offer, OpenAI went ahead and released the update for ChatGPT featuring a voice that sounded eerily similar to Johansson's. While OpenAI claims it's a different, similar-sounding voice actress, the idea that a computer is going around with your stolen voice is terrifying.

Flamethrower robot dog

How could you possibly ever make something cooler than a flamethrower? Simple, strap it to the back of a robotic dog of course! Originally built to help fight forest fires (ironically enough) by creating backburns, Glenn pointed out that a pack of these bad boys patrolling your property would be the ultimate home defense. Nobody would come anywhere near your house if it was guarded by a few of these firey companions.

Wormhole-generating UFO's

It's been a decade since the tragic disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. No trace of the aircraft or any of its passengers, except a few small pieces of debris, were ever found nor was an official cause of the disappearance ever given. There have been an infinite number of theories explaining what might have happened, but this one from investigative journalist Ashton Forbes might take the cake for the wildest. Forbes joined Glenn on his radio show and brought with him convincing video evidence that seemed to show the now-missing aircraft being circled by three mysterious orbs before suddenly disappearing in a flash of light. Does this video show the doomed aircraft being sucked into an artificial wormhole, or is it an amazing piece of hoaxwork?

THESE TOP 10 Founding Fathers' quotes help us remember America's original vision

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Independence Day is one of the few days when Americans come together to celebrate our country and the continued vision that our Founding Fathers crafted in 1776. But what is that vision? It seems with every passing July 4th, Americans lose even more of a sense of what the original intent of our nation was supposed to be. It's becoming increasingly important to read the Founding Fathers in their own words and to remember the vision that they cast for our nation. Here are our TOP 10 favorite Founding Fathers' quotes to help us remember their original views of government, freedom, and the American vision.

"The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty." —James Madison

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"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

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"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light." —George Washington

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"The people are the only legitimate fountain of power." —James Madison

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"I agree with you that it is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities, which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country." —Thomas Jefferson

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“Human passions unbridled by morality and religion… would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.” —John Adams

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"Those who stand for nothing will fall for everything." —Alexander Hamilton

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“The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” —James Madison

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"I fear that in every elected office, members will obtain an influence by noise, not by sense. By meanness, not greatness. By ignorance, not learning. By contracted hearts, not large souls. There must be decency and respect." —John Adams

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“We must go home to be happy, and our home is not in this world. Here we have nothing to do but our duty.” —John Jay

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We live in a dark time, so it is more important now than ever to make sure you are anchored to the truth.

Glenn was recently on the “Chicks on the Right” podcast for a follow-up interview after Amy Jo Clark and Miriam Weaver joined Glenn on his podcast back in March. The three dove into a lively discussion that touched on several things happening in Glenn's personal life, and Glenn delved into the importance of truth in our increasingly Orwellian society.

Glenn told the “Chicks” about his upcoming first novel for young adults, Chasing Embers, which is set in a dystopian world where the wildest WEF fantasies have come true and history has been completely rewritten. Glenn revealed that he was inspired to write the book while reading Karl Marx. He reflected on how Karl Marx was, and still is in many cases, considered this articulate revolutionary, but when compared to the words of the Founding Fathers, his articulation and arguments pale in comparison. He wanted to explore the idea, "What if Jefferson was the revolutionary again, not Marx?" Chasing Embers asks how we preserve the philosophies of the founders and the values of the Constitution so that our children have a chance to discover it if the world turns completely upside down.

Glenn also discussed how important it is to learn history, to anchor yourself in truth, God, and the Constitution, and our responsibility to preserve them in the face of the dystopian movement that is increasingly encroaching on Western civilization. Glenn described the country as "suicidal" and posited whether we can rein in a nation that is hurdling itself towards the brink. He said we can do our part to help, but unless the country decides it wants to live, it will die. We have to be prepared to endure such a scenario with our morals intact and the necessary knowledge to rebuild on hand.

Towards the end of the conversation, Glenn revealed some of the lessons he's learned in his decades on radio. He said that you have to know yourself--both the good and bad--be ready to defend your beliefs, and admit when you are wrong.

This is a podcast you won't want to miss. Click here to listen to the FULL discussion.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

For the past four years, the mainstream media has been covering for Biden, claiming that he is "fit for duty," despite the strong evidence to the contrary. But after the whole world saw just how "fit" Biden truly is during last night's disastrous debate, the illusion was completely shattered, and the media is scrambling to save face.

Glenn pointed out in his post-debate reaction on his radio show this morning that the mainstream media is in a panic. Biden's performance was so catastrophic that it seems like the Democrats might have to jump ship and find a new candidate. Meanwhile, the question is what to do with Biden between now and the election. Glenn pointed out that as commander-in-chief, Biden has the sole ability to respond to a nuclear threat to America, yet he can hardly complete a sentence.

People from across the political spectrum are reeling from this absolute disaster, weighing in on just how bad it was and making suggestions on how to move forward. We highlighted 10 of these responses below:

1. The Democratic Party is panicking 

2. Undecided voters lean away from Biden

3. Chip Roy calls on Kamala Harris to invoke the 25th Amendment

4. The Democrats look for a replacement 

5. The White House is called out on lies about Biden's health

6. Politico calls out Biden's "uneven" performance 

7. Joy Reid and Obama's crew panic over Biden's display of feebleness 

8. BU historian calls Biden debate 'worst performance by a candidate'

9. Van Jones calls Biden's debate performance 'painful'

10. Biden looked exactly like how conservatives claimed he looks