You Can't Take It with You
You’ve probably heard the one about the elderly rich man who married a much younger woman. To be sure that she wasn’t just after his wealth, he stipulated in the pre-nuptial agreement that all his money was to be buried with him when he died. She had no problem with that: on his death, she wrote a cheque for the full amount and tucked it in the casket with him!
The pharaohs who built the Great Pyramids wanted to take all their worldly goods with them too – including their wives and servants – so they had them buried with them and laid some heavy curses on anyone who dared to break in. (Check this article for other interesting tidbits about the pharaohs: Ancient Egypt's fantastic and weird history.
These days most people are aware that “you can’t take it with you”. It’s not unusual, however, to want to control what happens to your earthly acquisitions after you are gone … and you can do so with careful “estate planning”. Estate planning is most effectively done in consultation with a lawyer, accountant and (of course) your financial advisor.
- A Will is key – Let your will be known, and some well-intentioned, trusted individual (your executor) will do his/her best to make it so. Unless your estate is pretty straight-forward (e.g. “I leave everything to my first and only spouse”), it’s a good idea to find a lawyer with the TEP designation (Trust & Estate Practitioner) to help you draft your Will.
- Death & taxes – Find an accountant who is well-versed in the intricacies of estate taxes, so your wealth goes where you want it, rather than to the government.
- Insurance and investments – Besides providing funds for surviving members of your family, insurance can be an important estate planning tool: paying off your debts; funding a buy-sell agreement for your business; paying or, even better, helping you avoid estate taxes; etc.
Check with your financial advisor for additional estate planning ideas. With careful planning and appropriate documentation, you can direct your fortune from the grave without the need of mummies or curses!
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