How to Make the Best of Inheritance Planning

How to Make the Best of Inheritance Planning

Inheriting an unexpected, or even an anticipated, lump sum can fill you with mixed emotions – if your emotional attachment to the individual who has passed away was strong then you are likely to be grieving and the thought of how to handle your new-found wealth can be overwhelming and confusing but also exciting. One of the best pieces of advice in this situation is to give yourself some time before making any binding financial decisions. The temptation to quickly put the money to so-called ‘good use’ or to rush out and spend it can be strong but you must allow the news to sink in and also take some time to consider your options before you embark on the process of dealing with the inheritance. In the short term, put the money away in a high interest savings account and take time to research and think carefully about your financial goals and objectives and how this inheritance can help you to secure and maximize your financial future in the best way.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with larger sums of money, here are some useful ideas of where to start.

Reduce your debt burden

If you have significant or high-interest debts, one of the safest options of all is paying this debt down. Not only will you achieve a guaranteed after-tax rate of return of your current interest rate, it can also add to your feeling of financial security and potentially offer you a more consistent financial picture. Debt often carries with it a significant interest rate – particularly on credit cards and overdrafts for example – so in many cases, eliminating this burden should be considered as one of your main priorities.

However, you may like to take careful note of the option below regarding investing the money instead as much depends on the prevailing interest rates and, of course, your appetite for risk, as you may well find an investment option with a potentially higher return more attractive.

Make investments

A particularly effective way of investing an inheritance is to add it to your retirement savings – especially if your nest egg is not looking quite as healthy as it should due to missed savings years for example. Those with lower or less reliable incomes should look upon this option as a great choice in particular.

Be charitable

After considering your own future financial needs, giving some of your wealth away to either charities or to family and friends is a good option to share out some of your inheritance to those who could benefit from it. What’s more, donating to charity can also offer you some tax breaks which may reduce your overall tax burden.

Many individuals see this philanthropic route as offering them the opportunity to do something meaningful and rewarding with their wealth and contributing towards their own sense of moral duty and emotional wellbeing.

Make a spending plan

Of course, you are likely to be keen to spend some of your wealth on yourself and your family, particularly if your financial situation means that you have previously had to be more careful and prudent with money than you would have liked. A great way to do this is to create a spending plan so that you can enjoy the benefits of spending, without it significantly eating into money set aside for your financial planning goals. You could, perhaps, aim to set aside 10% of the inheritance just for yourself and loved ones to enjoy. The proportion will naturally depend on your circumstances but, in principle, it’s a great idea as it allows you to balance sensible saving and investments with some short-term enjoyment of your wealth.

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Do you need an estate plan?

Managing your finances raises a number of topics but none as tricky and potentially unpleasant as planning for your family and finances in the event that you pass away or become incapacitated. Understandably, these questions are often ignored by many—but don’t fall into the trap of avoiding these difficult matters. Good estate planning will help to make sure that your wishes are carried out, and your family and assets are well protected.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the key areas that you should consider when designing your estate plan:

  • Choosing a guardian – One of the most important considerations is who you select to become the legal guardian of your children. This is a very personal and complex decision, and you will consider several unique factors depending on your circumstances, but your principal concerns might be how physically able the person is to look after your children, as well as such practical matters as how close they live to you and their personal and financial situation and stability.

  • Life insurance and trusts – Life insurance gives your family the financial security to continue their standard of living and fulfil their dreams in the event that you are unable to provide for them yourself. Life insurance payouts can be used in various ways, including paying off debts, paying for college education, or simply helping with general living costs.

 

A trust is a way of specifying how and when you wish to pass money and other resources to your children. It can be an excellent way of ensuring that their inheritance reaches them before the age of eighteen or twenty-one, unlike a court-controlled process, as you will stipulate who manages and distributes the funds.

·      Choosing someone to make decisions on your behalf

It is crucial to make sure that somebody trustworthy is nominated to manage and distribute your various assets according to your wishes. This executor can be anybody, though spouses, older children, or close friends are often common choices. Similarly, if you become too sick to make your own decisions about your finances or your family’s care, a health care directive and a power of attorney will give you peace of mind and go a long way towards protecting your assets.

Now that we understand the key areas that should be considered in estate planning, here are some of the important components or documents involved in the process:

·      Will, trusts, and beneficiary forms

Both a will and a trust should detail your assets and how you wish them to be distributed when you die, as well as assigning the guardians of your children. However, one benefit that a trust has over a will is that a trust does not have to go through probate prior to being executed, as well as the option of coming into effect before you pass away; it remains under your control and transfers the role of trustee to someone else when you decease.

 

Beneficiary forms are slightly different. They assign designated beneficiaries to specific financial accounts such as mortgages and bank accounts. As this information holds more legal weight than a will itself, it is crucial to regularly ensure that your beneficiaries are up to date.

 

·      Durable powers of attorney

The term power of attorney refers to the person, or persons, that you nominate to act on your behalf in the event that you are too ill to state or carry out your own wishes. There are various ways to implement this; you can choose specific individuals for particular roles, such as one person to look after your finances and another to make your healthcare decisions, or you can designate one person full power of attorney to manage all of your affairs.

 

·      A living will

Not to be confused with a last will and testament, a living will details the type of medical treatment that you wish if you were ever incapacitated. Along with a general or healthcare power of attorney (see above), this document is known as your advance health care directive, and it not only provides you with peace of mind that your medical wishes will be respected, but it also gives direction and support to your family when faced with difficult decisions about your care.

 

·      Letter of intent

This document is not legally binding and can offer a more personal touch alongside an official will or trust. As the letter is less formal and binding than other documents, many people use it to express their wishes about more personal aspects such as their requests for funeral arrangements, or even preferences and desires for how their family should be brought up.

As with any financial arrangement, changes over time, not only in process and legislation but in your own personal situation, mean that it is imperative to keep your estate planning strategy under review and regularly updated to ensure it’s fit for its purpose and accurately reflects your wishes.