to exceed $3 million. Their home in the affluent Columbines section of Milton is a major asset, and they own other real estate in the U.S. and Nigeria, along with investments in stocks and bonds. Because their assets exceed the tax-exempt first $2 million of an estate, the couple was advised to create a trust. Transferring assets to a trust reduces the taxable portion of an estate’s value.
The couple’s primary goal was to provide a legacy for both sons and, if needed, security and custody for Bena. They also defined their wishes should one or both of them become incapacitated. “Having dealt with a parent who was not able to make decisions for himself in his last year of life, the healthcare proxy was a very important piece for me,” says Latimore. The trust for their children was also critical. Though their elder son has already graduated from college, they wanted to ensure that their younger son would have the opportunity to do the same.
Apreala says he learned that creating an estate plan involves weighing competing emotional considerations and making practical, objective decisions: “It gives you a lot of self-examination. It’s like an audit of your own self and your environment.”
Apreala’s and Latimore’s Advice:
Don’t wait–start now. Taking an inventory of everything you own and estimating its value takes time, as does deciding who would be good stewards of these assets. Couples must agree when choosing guardians for minor children. Completing an estate plan may take far longer than anticipated because of all the asset accounting and deliberations involved.
Think the unthinkable. Carefully consider what you would want to happen should the unthinkable occur. Who would you want to raise a minor child? Who would be a good role model? Who would best manage your affairs if you become disabled and are unable to speak for yourself?
Honestly appraise the skills of others. Don’t assume someone you want as a guardian or executor actually wants to do it or is capable of doing it. Someone who is an outstanding money manager who would be an excellent trustee or executor may not function satisfactorily as a parent—be aware that you don’t have to give one person both duties. Ask about his or her views; don’t spring responsibilities on anyone.
Let a professional design the trust. A properly crafted trust will minimize taxes on assets valued at more than $2 million. While some estate plan elements, such as a healthcare proxy, power of attorney, and will, are relatively easy to understand, laymen rarely know what needs to be included in a trust document.