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)

A virus has escaped the university labs and is super-spreading through our culture. It's called Critical Race THEORY and what used to be a fringe topic in the academic world is now a dangerous Marxist REALITY infecting our public schools where students are taught the U.S. is a "parasitic system" based on the "invasion" of "white male settlers."

On Glenn TV this week, Glenn Beck exposes how some teachers are being instructed to "cash in on kids' inherent empathy" in order to train them to become "activist intellectuals," starting as early as first grade.

CRT is an absolute toxin to America and Glenn warns that in just one generation the Constitution, freedom, and true equality will be totally destroyed. Yet, any opposition to the spread of this disease is shouted down as racism and bigotry. If Critical Race Theory is not already in your local school curriculum, it will be soon.

Joined by Asra Nomani, Vice President for Strategy and Investigations at Parents Defending Education, Glenn arms you with the facts about CRT so you can stand up to this tyranny in your community.

Watch the full episode below:


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.

Ezra Levant, founder of Rebel News, joined Glenn Beck on the radio program to describe the shocking footage he and his team captured of Canadian police harassing and even arresting Rebel News reporters during a protest in Montreal.

Video clips show officers making remarks about the "Jew" reporters and calling Rebel News "Jew media." Reporters are pulled out of crowds, handcuffed, slammed against vehicles and arrested. Some have been fined "thousands and thousands" of dollars "because they had cameras pointed at the police," said Levant.

Another video clip shows Canadian police demanding entrance to a rented Airbnb houseboat without a warrant.

"They the claimed it was an illegal gathering. It was just a B and B," Levant explained. "I told them to get a warrant. I went out there ... and they wouldn't let me back in.... It turned into a ten-hour standoff. They couldn't find a judge willing to give them a search warrant, so to punish us, they called the whole thing a crime scene. They actually wouldn't let any of my team off the boat unless they submitted to a personal search, which is illegal. And the craziest part, is that they arrested one of my guys, took him to jail, and they said this to us: We will hold him in jail until you let us search the Airbnb without a warrant."

Levant said nearly all Canadian media have ignored the insane attacks, warrantless searches and seizures, and the jailing of journalists, and warned Americans to take note and protect our First Amendment rights.

"If you do not protect your First Amendment, if you do not hold those hard-won freedoms, you will be like what we are," he said. "This is your future if you don't protect your First Amendment."

Watch the video below for more details:

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.

On Monday's episode of "The Glenn Beck Radio Program," Glenn opened up about the tragic death of his brother-in-law, Vincent Colonna Jr., who passed away unexpectedly on April 5. He also shared some of the important thoughts and insights he's learned through the grieving process.

"Last Monday, I was sitting in this chair ... the two-minute warning comes and Stu said to me, 'You ready for the show?'' ... And that's when my wife [Tania] came to the door of the studio here at our house and said, 'I...' and she held the phone up. And then she collapsed on the floor in tears," Glenn began. "Tania's brother had passed. To say this was a shock, is an understatement."

Glenn described his brother-in-law as having "a servant's spirit."

"He was always the guy who lit up the room. He was always the guy helping others. He would never stop, because he was always helping others," Glenn said of Vincent. "He was on the school board. He was a little league coach. He was the soccer coach. He helped build the church. He took care of the lawn of the church. He was constantly doing things, raising money for charity, working over here, helping to organize this. But he was never the guy in the spotlight. He was just the guy doing it, and you had no idea how much he had done because he never talked about it.

"We also didn't know how much mental anguish he was in because he never talked about it. And last Monday morning, after spending Easter with the family ... he killed himself. This is now the third family member of mine that has gone through this. And I keep seeing it play out over and over and over again, in exactly the same way."

Glenn described his thoughts as he, Tania, and her family struggled to come to grips with the devastating loss.

"I learned some really important things as I was watching this wake. I'm seeing these people from all walks of life ... the people that were there, were there because [Vince] made a difference in their life. He was a true servant. As I'm watching this, all that kept going through my mind was, 'by their fruits, ye shall know them.' The fruits of his labor were on display. He was a servant all the time. All the time ... he found a way to love everybody.

"There are two great commandments: Love God with all your heart and mind and soul. And love your neighbor. So those two great commandments boil down to: Love truth. Because that's what God is," Glenn said.

"Love thy neighbor. That's where joy comes from. The opposite of joy is despair, and that is the complete absence of hope ... and how do you find joy? You find joy by rooting yourself in the truth. Even if that's a truth you don't want to accept. Accept the truth," he added. "But we have to stop saying that there's nothing we can do. What are we going to do? Well, here's the first thing: stop living a lie."

Watch the video clip below to hear more from Glenn:


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.

After imprisoning a pastor for refusing to follow COVID-19 restrictions, Canadian officials barricaded his church. And when some church members retaliated by tearing down part of the fence, Canadian Mounties arrived in riot gear.

Rebel News Founder Ezra Levant joined Glenn Beck on the radio program to give his insight on the crazy situation. He described the new, armed police presence surrounding GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta, and how it not only encouraged hundreds of protesters to stand with the church in support but forced congregation members underground to worship as well.

What's happening is eerily similar to what occurs everyday in China, Levant says, and it must stop. Who would have thought this type of tyranny would be so close to home?

Watch the video below to hear Ezra describe the religious persecution taking place in Canada.


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.