We publish a lot on this blog about preparing your estate plan: writing a will, setting up a trust, choosing beneficiaries and nominating guardians; but there is another side to estate planning, a fun side… the receiving end.
You may assume that the receiving end of estate planning is the fun and easy part, but that is not always the case. Coming into an inheritance presents its own questions and challenges; financial, logistical, and personal.
Receiving an inheritance always means you have to think about taxes. Estate taxes, income taxes, property taxes… The estate tax this year is not as clear as it has been in the past, and you will probably want to have an attorney or accountant help you with it. Whether or not you have help, you will absolutely want to keep paperwork on everything. This includes paperwork from any transfers of inherited property received by you, as well as any and all of the original paperwork you can find for the acquisition of the inherited assets.
There is a lot more to an inheritance than simply getting money and spending it. Are you the nominated guardian of young children, holding those assets in trust for their benefit? Or perhaps you are the beneficiary of a trust, and your receipt of the assets is subject to the terms of that trust. Do you have to use the money for school? Do you need the approval of a trustee before you can spend it? Hopefully you are working with a trustee you know and trust, but if you and the trustee disagree you may need mediation or even your own attorney to assist with resolution of any dispute.
Inherited assets are often very personal and fraught with emotion. Should you really sell the house grandma lived in for decades and use the money to take a cruise? (If so, wait until after taxes, if any, are determined before you buy the tickets.) Would your parents have wanted you to use the money to pay for a wedding, or save it for your own retirement? Do you want to take the summer home that’s been in your family for generations and own it jointly with your new spouse, or keep the property on your side of the family?
Whatever you choose to do with your inheritance, it’s likely you’ll need some guidance from a knowledgeable and trustworthy professional. Your estate planning or elder law attorney can help. His or her knowledge of the probate system, estate taxes, and how to protect your newly inherited assets can be very valuable to you at the receiving end of your loved one’s estate plan.