Did you know that Thanksgiving dates back to 1621? In 1621, the Wampanoag Native Americans and Pilgrim colonizers shared a meal together at Plymouth Plantation. Contrary to popular belief, the meal didn’t exactly start as a sit-down dinner. The Plymouth Pilgrims were shooting off guns to celebrate an unknown occasion, and the nearby Wampanoag tribes went to investigate the sound. The groups met and cautiously ended up eating together.
It wasn’t until the 1860s that President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday, trying to further a narrative that would bring the country together during the Civil War.
Now, centuries later, we all sit down for a day of food, football, and family. Speaking of family, there’s no denying that they are probably the most important part of your life. When thinking about being thankful, there are ways to show that thankfulness all year ‘round—including after you’re gone.
What happens after you die?
This might sound like a heady philosophical question, but don’t worry; it’s not. We’re really just referring to what happens to your estate after you pass away. Do you have a will? Do you know what will happen to your property—cash, assets, real estate, etc.?
If you die without a will, your assets will be unprotected. A probate court will divvy up what you own and use your assets to pay off creditors. Your family will get what’s left. Though a last will and testament is one way to provide instructions for asset protection, there are other means of doing so as well, including: trusts, gifts, and college funds. Picking your power(s) of attorney and legal guardians for your kids are two other important legal tools.
One of the best things about trusts is how varied they are. A trust is a three-party relationship where the donor transfers legal title of an asset to a trustee, who holds the asset for the benefit of the beneficiary. At the donor’s specification (such as when he or she dies or when the beneficiary turns eighteen), the trustee will hand over legal title to the beneficiary.
Though this sounds simple, there are many different types of trusts. The most common include revocable, irrevocable, asset protection, charitable, construction, special needs, spendthrift, and tax bypass. And that list is by no means exhaustive. An estate planning attorney can help you determine which trust is best for your financial situation. Visit our website and learn more about estate plans and trusts.
As of 2020, in America, you can give away $15,000 in gifts to as many people as you want without having to pay tax or report the giveaways. Once you hit the $15,000 threshold, you must file a tax return for the gift(s). Gifts can include money, real estate, property, or cars. Giving gifts of under $15,000 helps you legally avoid taxation on assets, while still benefitting your loved ones.
The IRS allows people to save money in tax-advantaged college savings’ programs, called 529 plans. Depending on your state, this tuition money can be used for in- or out-of-state tuition or for private and public schools. Again, this depends on the state. 529 plans are a good way to get a head start on your kids’ future.
Powers of Attorney
Though it’s important to protect your assets and property for your family after you pass on, the postmortem protection isn’t the end of the story. Pre-mortem arrangements, such as picking a power of attorney, mean that you will have a trusted person in charge of your financial and medical decisions if you are too incapacitated to make them yourself. It might go without saying, but self-protection is just as important as asset protection.
Finally, if you have minor kids, you need to arrange legal guardianship for them in the event of a worst-case scenario. Talk to your proposed guardian and make sure they are on-board with your plan before drawing up the papers.
Though this list is by no means exhaustive, it hopefully helps provide the basics for keeping your family safe and secure, no matter what happens.