Whether we like it or not, death is one of the few guarantees in life. Despite this immutable truth, too many people have not taken the time to spell out who they would like to inherit their assets after their passing.
Although creating a well-constructed estate plan requires a lot of work, it is worth it. It allows you to have the last say on what you would like to do with the wealth that you worked hard to accumulate. These six books will help to give you an idea of how exactly to move forward with your estate planning.
No Written Will
Findings from a 2014 RocketLawyer.com survey found that roughly 51% of persons between the ages of 55 and 64 have not written a will. Probably the most startling thing of all is that for the most part creating a will is just a small component of comprehensive estate planning.
Proper estate planning also entails purchasing sufficient life insurance coverage, naming transfer on death beneficiaries for retirement and other investment accounts, setting up trusts for your heirs and even allocating funds for different charitable organizations.
By Dave Ramsey
The Legacy Journey: A Radical View of Biblical Wealth and Generosity (2014)
Over the last 23 years in the United States, the name Dave Ramsey has been synonymous with the act of getting out of debt. Having had filed for personal bankruptcy in his late 20s, Ramsey built a multimillion-dollar financial coaching empire that focuses on helping middle-class families live a completely debt free life.
Unlike his other books, The Legacy Journey puts little emphasis on money management practices for everyday people. Instead, it focuses on how to invest, spend and gift a portion of your wealth after amassing it. Evangelical Christian, Ramsey uses The Legacy Journey to talk about wealth from a biblical perspective. The book also provides readers with an inside look at how Ramsey constructed his estate plan. He shares some of the ways he structured trusts for his children when they were minors as well as how he and his wife choose the charitable organizations they give to.
(For more, see: How Dave Ramsey Made His Fortune.)
By Peter Klein and Angelica Berrie
A Passion for Giving: Tools and Inspiration for Creating a Charitable Foundation (2012)
As a way to continue their legacy, many people wish to leave a portion of their wealth to various non-profit organizations and other special causes when they die. A Passion for Giving serves as a guide for anyone looking to make charitable giving an important component in their estate plan. In addition to sharing case studies of how wealthy philanthropist go about donating their money, the book shares a step-by-step guide to starting and managing a private family foundation, as well as how to properly invest the foundation's assets for it to grow over time.
(For more, see: 5 Steps To Forming A Tax-Exempt Nonprofit Corporation.)
By Jeffrey Condon
Beyond the Grave, Revised and Updated Edition: The Right Way and the Wrong Way of Leaving Money to Your Children (and Others) (2014)
Written by an attorney with several decades of experience practicing estate law, Beyond the Grave is a comprehensive handbook that explains the basics of estate planning. The book explains common terms and mentions strategies that can be used to minimize tax liabilities for heirs of an estate. It also shares tips on how estate owners can avoid leaving an inheritance that would divide their families.
(For more, see: 'I Just Inherited Money' Now What?)
By Goldstone, Hughes, and Whitaker
Trusts: A Guide for Beneficiaries, Trustees, Trust Protectors, and Trust Creators (2015)
Trusts are instruments that are commonly used in estate planning. They help to minimize estate taxes and prevent creditors from seizing certain assets. Family Trusts provides all parties involved in a trust, grantors, trustees, and beneficiaries, with basic information on what a trust is and how it works. This book by Hartley Goldstone, James Hughes Jr., and Keith Whitaker also gives grantors suggestions on how exactly to structure a trust.
By Mary Randolph
8 Ways to Avoid Probate (2014)
After someone passes away, their entire estate goes into a legal process to validate his or her will, appoint an executor to distribute the estate’s assets to its heirs and pay off the final debts and taxes owed by that estate. This is known as probate, and it often takes months and sometimes even years for it to be complete. As such, many families incur large legal fees and have their inheritance delayed as a result of probate. As the name implies, 8 Ways to Avoid Probate shares eight different strategies that estate owners can use to immediately transfer assets to their beneficiaries upon debt and, therefore, reduce what goes to probate.
(For more, see: Skipping-Out on Probate Costs.)
By Melanie Cullen and Shae Irving
Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won't Have To (2014)
Get It Together gives readers practical tips for organizing and securing all of their important documents. It is a great resource for persons who are concerned about their family having trouble with finding their these documents should they die. These might include a list of passwords, bank statements, insurance policies and information on retirement accounts.
(For more, see: 6 Ways To Lose Your Estate.)
The Bottom Line
Although you might find thinking about your eventual death hard to stomach, it is very important to invest time, energy and money into constructing a comprehensive estate plan. Despite common beliefs, every adult, not just the wealthy, should spell out who they would want to inherit their assets.
Without possessing a last will and testament, you run the risk of having a judge determine how to distribute your assets, among your family and friends, following your passing. This is a problem because a court’s decision may not necessarily reflect what your wishes for your estate would have been if you had prepared a will.
Furthermore, proper estate planning can help to significantly reduce your estate’s overall tax liability which will result in a larger inheritance for your heirs. While writing a will and setting up trusts, might require assistance from professionals, the above six books can provide a great start for anyone who is looking to create an estate plan.