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brown on green, A Regular column about finances
A Better Way to Settle Your Estate
Free Will Baptist Foundation has teamed up with Cornerstone Estate Planning of Atlanta, Georgia, to offer Free Will Baptist families a better way to settle their estates. We have held estate planning seminars in over 75 churches and helped over 400 families set up estate plans. We strongly encourage you to consider the Free Will Baptist Foundation Estate Plan for Life rather than a simple will. The Estate Plan for Life includes a revocable living trust, various powers of attorney, medical directives, guardianship papers, and a pour-over will.
The centerpiece of the plan is the revocable living trust (RLT). An RLT has several advantages over a simple will. In simple terms, the RLT is a container set up to own assets. When a RLT is established, everything a person owns (real estate, bank accounts, valuables, household goods, and other assets) is titled into the name of the trust. The person(s) who establish the trust are the trustees and also the beneficiaries. Their heirs are successor beneficiaries. When they die, everything in the trust goes to their heirs as beneficiaries and probate is avoided.
Avoiding probate is a good idea, since the costs of probate for an estate range between four and seven percent. Additionally, your heirs will likely wait a year or more before the estate is settled. With a trust, everything can be settled in a matter of days depending on whether assets (like real estate) must be sold.
The costs to settle an estate are often hidden, because when heirs receive their inheritance, it is net remainder after fees, and recipients often have no idea how much more they could have received.
Consider a $300,000 estate using the lowest estimate on fees at 4%. Instead of receiving the full $300,000, the heirs will receive $288,000: a loss of $12,000. Using a RLT, the family could make a $12,000 gift to a Free Will Baptist ministry by redirecting the fees the estate would have paid to an attorney and court fees.
However, the Estate Plan for Life includes other valuable provisions as well. Many of us don’t realize how vulnerable we could be to state courts if we become incapacitated and can’t make decisions for ourselves. The Estate Plan for Life includes all the documents you need for your family to stay in control in the event of incapacitation.
The Foundation’s partnership with Cornerstone makes it possible for you to have all the necessary documents drawn up by an attorney in your state. The Foundation will hand deliver the attorney-prepared documents to you. We will stay in contact with you by calling every year to make sure your documents remain up-to-date. Finally, after the first spouse dies, we will come alongside the survivor to help with end of life issues; and when the final spouse dies, we will be with the family to help them with distribution of assets.
For peace of mind regarding your estate, I encourage you to contact the Foundation or Cornerstone Estate Planning today, to begin establishing your Estate Plan for Life.
David Brown, CPA, became director of the Free Will Baptist Foundation in 2007. Send questions to David at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn how the Foundation can help you become a more effective giver, call 877-336-7575.