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Bluffton South Carolina Estate Planning Law Blog

What if a revocable trust conflicts with a will?

The goal of estate planning is to ensure that all parts of that plan work together smoothly. This could include a revocable trust -- also called a living trust -- and a will. Unfortunately, though, that doesn't always happen.

So, if there is a conflict between the two when someone passes away, what happens? Which one takes precedence? Does the estate have to follow the guidelines in the revocable trust or the will?

How should you leave money to the grandkids?

As you begin to consider your will and estate plan, you know that leaving money to your grandchildren is your main goal. Your adult children are doing fine. You want your grandkids to have a great chance of success. How should you leave them the money?

The easiest way is simply to name them as beneficiaries in your will. When you pass away, they get the money that you left to them as a lump payment.

A will isn't the only way to leave an inheritance

A will is the most common way to leave an inheritance behind, and it's very important to have one. It can be complex or as simple as splitting your assets evenly among all of your heirs. It's up to you. But a will isn't the only option that you have.

There are a lot of ways to leave money to family members and others, and you may want to consider them. Many can be used along with your will. Examples include:

  • Trusts: A trust can give your heirs the money under the conditions you create, such as giving it to them at a certain age or requiring them to use it for school.
  • Life insurance policies: When you buy a life insurance policy, it's not part of your estate. However, you name a beneficiary who will get that money when you pass away.
  • Retirement accounts: As with a life insurance policy, you name one or more beneficiaries who will directly receive any money left in the account.
  • Gifts before death: Don't assume that your heirs and beneficiaries must wait until you're gone to benefit from your generosity. You can start distributing assets whenever you'd like.
  • Payable-on-death accounts: You can add a payable-on-death beneficiary to your bank account. When you pass away, instead of putting the money into your estate to be handed down, the bank just gives access to whomever you named.

An incentive trust creates a conditional inheritance

Many times, an inheritance comes without conditions. If you put someone in your will and leave them $100,000, they simply get that money when you pass away. All that matters to the estate executor is finding the right person and distributing the funds.

However, you may want to set up a conditional inheritance so that you have more control over when and why the person gets their inheritance. To do so, instead of naming them in your will, you can just put the money into an incentive trust.

You need to add your pet to your will

Odds are that you do not think of your pet as property but as a family member. You love them, you care for them and you may not consider them on the same level as your children, but it's close. Pets do not feel like "something" that you own, not in the same way that you own a painting or a car.

That said, pets are property, legally speaking. You paid for them. Now you own them. Something has to be done with them if you pass away. They have a monetary value, and they are part of your estate.

What do I need in mind before writing a will?

Although we do not live to see the results, a last will and testament is often a reflection of our most important decisions in life. We work hard to earn and maintain our assets throughout our lifetimes, and we want to know that these things will help and comfort the people or the institutions we love.

  • What are the basic things I need to keep in mind while writing a will?

It's good to start with a list of the major assets or items you want to list in a will. This will include all of your most valuable assets, such as real estate and highly-appraised items, but it may also include items of sentimental value that you know the beneficiary will appreciate.

  • What is a beneficiary?

Case for trust ownership reversed in South Carolina court

Disputes over properties held in trust are often complicated and time-consuming, and they can also take a lot of resources and energy away from vital operations. This is why it's important to be very specific about the intentions for any trusts, whether they're designed to benefit someone's heirs or they're being used to hold property and assets for an organization or charity.

A church in South Carolina was recently part of a dispute over who owned and controlled the land on which their place of worship sits. A congregation broke away from its national denomination, which led the head office to claim their property back from that group. The congregation later joined a different denomination and did not stay independent.

Trusts can be set in stone or changeable in the future

"It's all for the children." That's what smart landowners and wealth managers say. You should think of what you own as something you give as your legacy. It is all something you are holding in trust for your successors.

A trust is exactly what a lot of people use to preserve value for future generations when it comes to family estates, business holdings and a variety of other assets or financial instruments. And the people who may or will inherit these things are called the beneficiaries.

It may be time to update your will

There are a lot of things in life that we never get around to doing. As we age, we often acknowledge that the time to do something and enjoy it has probably passed. But one thing never goes out of style, and often becomes more relevant as we get older and wealthier.

Writing a will is often a difficult subject to approach. We never want to think too much about the end of our own lives. But our children and other people we leave behind are why we write a will and consider updating it often. In fact, having a child or grandchild is a good reason to start the process.

Life and death questions: Choosing your medical power of attorney

Who can you trust in a life or death situation?

That's basically the question you have to ask yourself when you're picking someone to hold your medical power of attorney (POA). If the day comes when you're not able to speak for yourself, whom do you trust to speak for you on issues like whether to try a risky surgical procedure or when to extend your life via artificial means (and when to stop)?

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