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)

The Senate Judiciary Committee was set to vote on subpoenas to compel Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify on alleged censorship and bias across their platforms. But that all changed when Republican committee members "expressed reservation about the maneuver," Politico reports.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who chairs Judiciary's Subcommittee on the Constitution, was definitely not one of the committee members with cold feet. On the radio program Tuesday, he told Glenn Beck that he's fighting "vociferously" to ensure Dorsey and others testify before the November 3rd election.

"Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg are both going to testify. They're are going to testify in person. They're going to testify before Election Day. That's what I think should happen," Cruz said. "That's what I'm fighting vociferously to happen. Right now, the companies are negotiating with the chairman's office to discuss terms to come voluntarily. I don't give a damn whether they come voluntarily or under subpoena. They need to testify in person and answer questions for the American people about why they are trying to steal this election, to suppress the free speech, and to censor the press."

The subpoenas would require Big Tech leaders to testify on the alleged "suppression and/or censorship" of two consecutive blockbuster stories from the New York Post. The first story was about emails that allegedly came from Hunter Biden's computer which are currently being investigated by the FBI, and the second was based on additional emails that allegedly showed communist China directly offering millions of dollars to then-Vice President Joe Biden.

"Big Tech stepped in, and they've done something they've never done before," Cruz explained. "We know that Big Tech has been censoring individual conservatives, trying to suppress conservative speech. But the step they took here is, they blocked if any individual user tried to share either of the New York Post stories, [they] were blocked ... Sharing a news story, from a major media outlet is part of democracy, part of free speech. And not only that, they blocked the New York Post itself. Right now, today, the New York Post is not being allowed to post its own damn stories on corruption. This is ridiculous. It's a threshold that's never been crossed before, of Silicon Valley oligarchs declaring the authority to determine what the press is allowed to report, and who is allowed to see it."

Watch the video below to catch more of the conversation:

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If we learned nothing from the media over the past 4 years it's that colluding with a foreign entity to either win an election or for personal gain is absolutely grotesque. Well, that depends on whether you have a (D) or (R) before your name anyway. President Trump was impeached on rumor and innuendo yet Joe Biden has all but skated on his corruption up to this point.

Below is a timeline that shows the level of corruption and the lengths the Biden's went to in order to build that family's wealth and influence internationally.

2009

In 2009, Joe Biden was the brand-new Vice President and John Kerry was a U.S. Senator. Just five months after Joe was sworn in, his son Hunter, and Kerry's stepson, Christopher Heinz, formed an international private equity firm called Rosemont Capital. It had several different branches, including one called Rosemont Seneca Partners.

2010

Just nine months after Rosemont Seneca opened its doors, Hunter Biden went to China for meetings with executives from China's biggest banks, and its sovereign wealth and social security funds. That's unheard-of access for a brand-new firm. Was it just coincidence that at the same time Hunter was meeting these Chinese bigwigs, his dad was meeting with China's then-president Hu Jintao in Washington DC at a nuclear security summit?

2011

In May 2011, Joe Biden met with Chinese officials for the U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue conference in Washington. Just two weeks later, Hunter Biden went to Taiwan for meetings with the same Chinese financial giants he'd met in China in 2010, plus some new ones.

2013

By December 2013, Joe Biden was enjoying his second term as VP, and John Kerry was now Secretary of State. That's when Joe traveled to Beijing on an extended official trip and Hunter traveled with him on Air Force Two.

During their stay, Vice President Biden met with President Xi and Hunter was mostly out of sight. We don't know exactly what he was up to, but the deal finalized between Rosemont Seneca and the Bank of China just ten days after the Bidens' trip pretty much gives it away. The most powerful financial institution in China formed a joint venture with tiny Rosemont Seneca to create a giant new investment firm called Bohai Harvest RST – the "RS" stands for Rosemont Seneca.

The firm is often called "BHR" for short.

Hunter Biden was a member of the Board. Remember, the Bank of China is government-owned, which means its business is completely intertwined with the goals of the Chinese Communist Party. BHR also got the freedom to operate in the newly created Shanghai Free-Trade Zone where, over the next six years, it would use $2.5 billion of Chinese government money to invest in China, as well as in other countries, including the U.S.

During their Beijing trip, Hunter also introduced Jonathan Li to his dad. Li is Hunter's business partner – he's CEO and Director of BHR.

Hunter arranged for Joe to meet Li in the lobby of the hotel where they stayed during their Beijing trip.

2014

In 2014, one of BHR's first major investments was in the China General Nuclear Power Corporation.

CGN is a Chinese government-owned nuclear power company that sold off a stake of the company to outside investors. Problem is, CGN was under FBI investigation for paying informants in the U.S. to steal nuclear secrets.

In 2016, the FBI arrested the ringleader of this nuclear espionage, a man named Allen Ho.

When they arrested Ho, he was using a random code generator to access funds being provided to him from – where else? – the Bank of China.

Yet while this FBI probe was going on, the son of the Vice President owned a stake in the company being investigated. And even after arrests were made, Rosemont Seneca did not alter its relationship with BHR, nor did it divest from CGN, even though it was stealing U.S. nuclear secrets.

2015

In 2015, BHR partnered with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) to buy an American company called Henniges for $600 million.

AVIC is a gigantic military contractor in China – think Lockheed Martin – that makes fighter jets, bombers and drones. BHR bought 49% of Henniges and AVIC bought 51%.

Henniges is a precision parts manufacturer specializing in anti-vibration technology. The stuff they make is known as "dual use" by the U.S. State Department, which means the technology can also have a military application.

Because of that, the deal had to be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) since it could have national security implications. The thing is, the American side of BHR – meaning Hunter Biden and his pals – had to know there were serious national security implications with AVIC.

The year before they formed a partnership with AVIC, the Wall Street Journal reported how AVIC stole technology related to the U.S. Air Force's F-35 stealth fighter and used it in its own stealth fighter for the Chinese.

How the Committee on Foreign Investment approved that deal remains a mystery. CFIUS does not publicly disclose any information regarding its decisions. Their findings are not publicly announced.

Interesting that China accounted for the largest share – with 74 transactions – approved by CFIUS during Obama's second term (2013-2015).

Under the umbrella of Rosemont Capital was a real estate company called Rosemont Realty. In 2015, a Chinese company called Gemini Investments bought a 75% stake in Rosemont Realty. The company was renamed Gemini Rosemont

Gemini brought $3 billion to the partnership with Rosemont, with the aim of buying "Class A institutional-quality commercial office properties in U.S. markets."

Red flag (literally) – Gemini Investments is a subsidiary of the China Ocean Shipping Company, a.k.a., "COSCO."

COSCO is a Chinese government-owned company. Its headquarters in Beijing is actually next to the headquarters of the Bank of China. COSCO is well-known for its close military ties. It's essentially a branch of the Chinese Navy.

2017

In 2017, BHR invested in Face++. That's the facial recognition phone app built by a Chinese company that is incorporated in a separate app built by the Chinese government. Police in the Xinjiang [Sin-jong] region of China use that app to keep tabs on citizens, and track and detain Uiguhr [Wee-ger] Muslims.

The app allows police easy access to data about Chinese Muslims including things like religious activity, blood type, and even the amount of electricity they use.

2018

In March 2018, a spokesman (Chris Bastardi) for Christopher Heinz (John Kerry's stepson) emailed The Hill to say that Heinz had "no operating role" in Rosemont Seneca, and that he was not involved in any of Rosemont's deals in China (which contradicts Schweizer's report in his book Secret Empires).

Chris Heinz was involved in Rosemont Capital. Rosemont Seneca was established under the same GP as Rosemont Capital, but Chris Heinz had no operating role in it. Chris and his family have no financial interest or investment in Bohai Harvest RST, he has never traveled to China, and he has never met with the firm's Chinese management team or investors.

2019

In October 2019, Hunter Biden's lawyer, George Mesires, said Hunter did not conduct any business on that 2013 trip to Beijing with his Dad.

Mesires said the timing of BHR's business license getting approved was purely coincidental because the paperwork had been submitted months before the Bidens' China trip.

According to Hunter's lawyer, the approval " was not related in any way, shape or form to Hunter's visit."

Hunter Biden finally stepped down from the BHR board last October (2019), but he DID NOT give up his 10% stake in the company.

When Bevan Cooney — the former "junior" business partner to Hunter Biden and Devon Archer — went to jail in 2019, investigative reporter and New York Times bestselling author Peter Schweizer thought he'd never gain access to the damning emails Cooney had promised. That all changed three weeks ago when Schweizer was given complete access to Cooney's gmail account.

Schweizer joined Glenn Beck on the radio program Tuesday to describe just some of the business deals revealed within these emails — like Hunter working with an alleged Russian criminal and with Chinese communists to secure their assets, or to secure one-on-one time with his dad, then-Vice President Joe Biden. And all of this new information is completely separate from the emails allegedly discovered on Hunter Biden's laptop recently reported by the New York Post.

"So, I want to make this clear. This [Cooney's emails] has nothing to do with what's on the laptop … It didn't come from [Rudy] Giuliani. It didn't come from anybody else, right?" Glenn asked Schweizer.

"That's absolutely correct," Schweizer confirmed.

He briefly explained how Cooney, a former Los Angeles nightclub owner, is currently serving a prison sentence for his involvement in a fraudulent business bond scheme with Biden and Archer. From prison, Cooney gave Schweizer written permission to access his Gmail account.

"This is really important," he noted. "We're not looking at printouts. Not looking at PDFs. We're actually in his Gmail accounts themselves, sifting through these emails. And there's a shocking amount of information about deals involving China, involving Russia, involving all sorts of things they were trying to pull off."

Watch the video below to catch more of the conversation:

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The king of "No Spin" and bestselling author of "Killing Crazy Horse," Bill O'Reilly joined Glenn Beck on this week's podcast to talk about the latest developments in Joe Biden's Ukraine and China corruption scandal. Now that some of the details are finally coming out in the open, does the average Democrat care? Maybe, but the Left doesn't seem to.

O'Reilly argued there's more hatred for President Donald Trump now than in 2016, and that some people hate President Trump so much that they'd rather vote for the "senile, corrupt" Joe Biden.

"Hunter got tens of millions of dollars from Ukraine, from Russia, from China because his father was vice president. I have no doubt in my mind," O'Reilly said. "But the hatred for Donald Trump overrides that in the minds of millions of viewers. They're saying, 'You know, we'd rather have the senile corrupt guy than Trump.'"

Asked by Glenn if any other Republican running for president would be met with the same level of vitriol, O'Reilly answered, "The Left is the Left. They don't like America. The want to redo the Constitution. They want to take some of our freedoms, like the Second Amendment and the First Amendment, and change them. And they want to destroy capitalism and replace it with a big centralized government in Washington that controls the economy … but I'm talking about the folks. I have liberal friends and I say to them, 'Do you not understand that when you vote for Biden, you're voting against your own self interest?'"

Watch the video clip from the full podcast below, or find the full episode HERE:

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