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What Happens With Your Assets When You Die?

Since a 1965 book by financial planner Norman Dacey popularized avoiding probate, the strategy has become ingrained in the American financial psyche, and the U.S. financial system has accommodated consumers by making it easy to set up IRAs and other brokerage accounts to avoid probate.

Now, with the first generation of Americans who set themselves up to avoid probate starting to die, the quiet evolution toward avoiding probate has suddenly created an urgent need for Baby Boomers to understand what will happen to their assets when they die. Once the domain of legal professionals only, consumers must be aware strategies for estate planning and avoiding probate is the domain of financial advisors, part of the financial advice process.

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Probate is the term for the legal process of distributing your assets after you die. It’s court-supervised and takes months or years. Probate opens your will to objections from disgruntled family members, heirs who feel shortchanged, and makes public a record of personal information about your estate.

Since the 1980s, states changed property laws to make avoiding probate easier. Now, naming the beneficiaries of your IRA, Roth IRA, and other federally qualified retirement accounts avoids probate and that puts the financial advisor at the center of that crucially important estate planning decision.

“Avoiding probate became standard operating procedure for the entire generation of Baby Boomers with the advent of irrevocable trusts,” said L. Paul Hood, Jr., who teaches estate tax planning to legal, accounting, and financial professionals. “And, now, as Baby Boomers are starting to die, many don’t completely understand that their financial advisor – and not their attorney – plays a pivotal role in ensuring your estate passes to beneficiaries outside of probate and in conformity with your wishes.”

Depending on your personal circumstances, a legal professional specializing in estate planning can be called in to assist in certain instances, including:

  • family members with special needs
  • transfer ownership of a business or investments
  • gifting your residence to heirs
  • leaving assets to charity
  • estate is valued at more than $12.06 million
Estate planning is central to fulfilling our role as your trusted financial advisor. If you have questions about what happens to your assets when you die, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Nothing contained herein is to be considered a solicitation, research material, an investment recommendation, or advice of any kind, and it is subject to change without notice. Any investments or strategies referenced herein do not take into account the investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any specific person. Product suitability must be independently determined for each individual investor. Tax advice always depends on your particular personal situation and preferences. You should consult the appropriate financial professional regarding your specific circumstances.
The material represents an assessment of financial, economic and tax law at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events or a guarantee of future results. Forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties. Actual results, performance, or achievements may differ materially from those expressed or implied. Information is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources. It is not guaranteed as to accuracy, does not purport to be complete, and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions.
This article was written by a professional financial journalist for Advisor Products and is not intended as legal or investment advice.


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This article was written by a professional financial journalist for William Howard & Co. Financial Advisors, Inc. and is not intended as legal or investment advice.

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