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In this edition of Ask General Counsel, Ann-Marie Murzin, who leads our Estate Planning Practice, discusses estate planning lessons from Queen Elizabeth (and how her planning should be motivation for anyone that does not have a plan in place).
Queen Elizabeth’s recent passing signals changes for the royal family. While most people feel they don’t have anything in common with a royal, her passing shows that we all need an estate plan. Estate planning is not just for the rich and famous; everyone has an estate. Whether married with children, single or partners with pets, we should take the time to create an estate plan.
Here are some great tips Queen Elizabeth’s planning can offer us:
Queen Elizabeth transferred many of her assets into a trust to provide funding for monarchy operating expenses, including the extensive property maintenance. Homeowners can use trusts as part of their estate planning to achieve similar goals. For example, a trust may address who would maintain your home or how maintenance and renovations would be carried out on your property, should you become incapacitated.
Queen Elizabeth’s estate plan also dictated where her personal assets should go, including art, jewelry and real estate. Individual estate planning should include similar provisions to distribute personal property. While most of us do not own tiaras, you may have valuable jewelry or sentimental items you’d prefer to entrust to a family member or friend, rather than have those items sold to a stranger on eBay or at an estate sale.
Queen Elizabeth’s estate was exempt from estate taxes. However, in the U.S., we are not granted that luxury. Typically, a comprehensive estate plan may involve tax planning to reduce taxes and maximize the value of what passes to loved ones. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you create an estate plan that minimize taxes and addresses personal and philanthropic goals.
Business Succession Planning
The monarchy runs like a family business, and the transition from Queen Elizabeth to King Charles III highlights crucial steps every business owner should consider.
Most importantly, the Queen trained a successor to take over at a moment’s notice. While most business owners will not have decades to train their successor, it is critical to have a business succession plan in place that names who will take over if you become incapacitated, pass away or retire. It is important for that person to be prepared with a business contingency plan and to understand their role and how to perform key responsibilities.
Collaborating with experienced business law counsel will ensure nothing is overlooked when implementing a comprehensive business succession plan.
Other Lessons Learned
In addition to legal planning, Queen Elizabeth planned every detail of her funeral and burial. Taking steps to specify your wishes can lift a huge burden off loved ones and ensure your final wishes are met. These plans can range from simple choices to those that are environmentally friendly, spiritual, more unique or a lavish sendoff.
Whatever you prefer, an estate plan provides an opportunity to structure your affairs and communicate your wishes about your final disposition as well as your assets.
Another lesson from the royal family is to have an estate plan in place early and update it often. While Queen Elizabeth lived a long life, Princess Diana tragically died young. People often put off estate planning, believing they have plenty of time to make plans.
Further, if you already have an estate plan, best practices suggest updating a will or a trust every three years. Common indicators that an estate plan may need to be updated include marriage, divorce or death; the birth of child or grandchild; buying a home; illness or disability, or other major life changes.
Contract General Counsel, P.C.
Estate planning may seem overwhelming, but an experienced estate planning attorney can guide you through the process. At the law firm of General Counsel, P.C., our Estate Planning Team, led by attorney Ann-Marie Murzin, can help you plan for the future whether protecting you and your loved ones with a personal estate plan, or through business succession planning.