“Last wills and testaments, which were invented centuries ago, are the most famous estate-planning documents.”

Everyone knows what a last will and testament is. However, a will is not always the best way to distribute your assets, explains the Times Herald-Record in the article “Living trusts are better choice than wills“. Most people think that by having a will alone, they will make it clear who they want to receive their assets when they die. However, wills are used by the court in a proceeding called “probate,” if the only estate plan you have is a will. The court proceeding is to establish that the will is valid. Depending upon where you live, probate can take a year before assets are distributed to beneficiaries.

Certain family members must receive notifications, when a will is submitted to probate. Some people will receive notices even if they are not mentioned in the will. This can lead to all kinds of awkward situations, especially from estranged or unknown relatives. The person who is the executor of the will is required to locate these relatives and, until they are found and notified, the probate process comes to a standstill.

There are instances where a judge will allow a legal notice to be published in a local newspaper, after valid attempts to find relatives are unsuccessful. If there is a disabled beneficiary, a minor beneficiary, a relative or beneficiary who can’t be located, or a relative who has been incarcerated, the judge often appoints lawyers to represent these parties’ interests and the estate must pay for the attorney’s fees.

Depending on the situation, the executor may be required to furnish a family tree, or a friend of the decedent must sign an affidavit attesting that the person never had any children.

Thinking of disinheriting a child? Anyone who is disinherited in a will receives a notice about that and is legally permitted to contest the will. That can lead to years of expensive litigation, including discovery demands, depositions, motions and possibly a trial. Like most litigation, will contests usually end in a settlement. The disinherited relative often gets a share of the inheritance, even when the decedent didn’t want them to get anything.

For many families, a living trust is a better alternative. These trusts also serve as disability planning, tool naming people who will manage the assets of the trust in case of the trust owner’s incapacity. They are private documents, so their information does not become public knowledge, like the details of a will.

A qualified estate planning attorney will help you determine what estate planning tools will work best to achieve your goals, while maintaining your privacy and ensuring that assets pass to heirs in a discrete manner.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (Oct. 26, 2019) “Living trusts are better choice than wills

“Congratulations! Your retirement planning paid off. You built a $1 million retirement nest egg. How long will $1 million last in retirement?”

For most retirees, the goal is simple: don’t run out of money. That’s the worry that plagues most Americans—61% of them, according to a survey from Allianz Life. How do you keep that $1 million from running out before you do, asks Investors Business Daily in the article “How Long Will Your $1M Last in Retirement?“.

Let’s use this example. A person is 65 years old, earning $115,000 annually. It’s not a king’s ransom, but it’s a decent income. They sock away a good-sized amount of money every year, but not so much that they reach income limits in a 401(k) or similar retirement plan.

The simple answer to the how long will $1 million last is less than nine years. That’s if the person spends $115,000 a year from the $1 million.

The average American life expectancy is now 78.6 years, as of 2017, according to the CDC. However, if you make it to 65, you’re more likely to make it to 20 more years. For the average person, that means living to around 85. Retirement funds in this case, which is admittedly an average, will need to last twenty years. Will they?

That nest egg isn’t done growing, just because you’ve turned 65. Given enough time, even including setbacks in the market, you’re likely to have a nest egg that keeps growing over those twenty years. If you use a 5.6% annual rate of return for forecasting how your portfolio will do, you may be in better shape than you thought.

A 5.6% return would grow your portfolio to $2.97 million, even at a 5.6% growth rate. However, that’s without subtracting any money for living expenses every year. Let’s plug that in.

You’ll be getting Social Security, so you won’t be taking out $115,000 every year. While the size of benefits may change in the future, there will still be income. For a 65-year-old earning $115,000, expect to receive about $27,815 from Social Security annually.

That’s $87,185 to maintain your current lifestyle, from retirement savings, any part-time income or other sources. Let’s say you don’t want to work, and it all has to come from savings. Don’t forget inflation, which will come in at some point. U.S. inflation is now 1.7%.

It looks like your $1 million will last about fifteen years now. Will that be enough? Downsizing to cut housing costs will help, as would part-time employment. You should also make sure that you have long-term care insurance to protect you and your family from one of the biggest health care costs.  However, people with $1 million can pat themselves on the back—well done!

Reference: Investor’s Business Daily (Oct. 28, 2019) “How Long Will Your $1M Last in Retirement?

For more information on elder law and estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.