Estate planning is the process of making arrangements for how you want your assets to be disposed of if you pass away or become incapacitated. Sure, it might not be everyone’s favorite topic, but estate planning is nevertheless an important task that ensures your hard-earned assets are passed down to the right people and organizations. By making your arrangements in advance, you can leave specific instructions for which of your possessions are distributed to whom, at what time, and how.
While estate planning is important for everyone, it is especially important for those with a real estate portfolio–or at least in the process of building a real estate portfolio. Below are important documents to include in your estate plan if you are a real estate investor.
Wills & Living Trusts
Wills and living trusts are both tools used in estate planning. These documents are mainly used to designate beneficiaries for your property in the case of your death, but each option has different applications. Many choose to keep both wills and living trusts concurrently, so as to take advantage of the different benefits.
One of the main differences between a will and a living trust is that a living trust ensures that your property is passed on in private without going through probate, and without challenges from the court. A will, on the other hand, must be filed in probate court and becomes a public document. The property included in a will is subject to probate court and claims, which can be lengthy and expensive processes. There are multiple ways in which estate attorneys use these documents in order to ensure that real property is transferred as smoothly as possible upon an investor’s death.
Lifetime Planning For Investors: Powers of Attorney & Advanced Directives
A power of attorney is a document that gives one person (an agent) the authority to act on behalf of another (a principal). The principal may grant a limited or wide range of authority to the agent, depending on the principal’s needs. This document is often used for those who want to make sure someone is designated to make financial and business matters on their behalf in case they ever become unable to do so due to incapacitation or other reasons. Real estate investors may find granting an agent power of attorney useful for carrying out business functions such as collecting rents, making payments and managing tenants in their absence.
While powers of attorney generally allow someone to make business and financial decisions on another’s behalf, an advanced directive allows you to designate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to speak for yourself. Times in your life when you may want an advanced directive include if you have a chronic, ongoing health condition, are planning a surgery, receive startling health news, or have other concerns for your well-being. If this hasn’t happened to you, that’s wonderful. But the reality is we can all get sick.
Asset Protection & Tax Planning
An estate plan for real estate investors should also include strategies to protect your assets as well as provide tax sheltering strategies for your investments. To begin protecting your assets, start by creating an inventory of your assets and break them down based on how they are owned. Next, take the necessary measures to ensure that your assets can legally be passed on to your beneficiaries. This process can get a bit more complicated for real estate investors who purchase properties with partners or through an LLC. They will need to form a plan for how to to transfer the ownership of their investments, including those with a surviving business partner.
Our Office Can Help
Our office has served many real estate investors. We have extensive experience in how the various estate planning documents are used for investors. Contact our office today if you have any questions about estate planning. We will review your personal circumstances and help execute the best strategy for you, your business, and your heirs.