You should prepare your children to handle the assets they’ll eventually inherit. One strategy is to have them meet with your professional advisors, who can explain what you’ve been doing.
For example, they should meet with your accountant for an explanation of the any tax planning tactics that you’ve been using, so those tactics can be continued after your death. If you have a broker or a financial planner, your heirs should meet with this investment advisor for a review of your portfolio strategies.
If you hold investment property, that might pose special problems. An investment portfolio can be divided among your children, who can follow their individual inclinations, but it’s not easy to divide a building. Your heirs might not agree about how the property should be managed.
With any assets but especially rental property, you must be realistic. Ask yourself whether your children can work together to manage the real estate. You may be better off leaving investment property to the one child who really can manage real estate while leaving your other heirs additional assets instead. Alternatively, you might provide that some of your children can buy out the others, at a price set by an independent appraisal.
Also consider that one or more of your heirs might not be ready to handle an inheritance. In some cases, one of your children might be in a shaky marriage, so inherited assets could be lost in a divorce.
In such situations, your estate plan can call for a trust to hold your assets after your death. You can place restrictions on the trust funds. One approach is to say that some of the trust fund will be distributed when the beneficiaries reach a certain age, some more will be paid out five or 10 years later, and so on. Such a plan can work well if you hope the trust beneficiaries will become more capable of handling money as they grow older, or will have resolved marital problems by then.
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If you decide to leave assets in trust, you probably should discuss the terms of the trust with the beneficiaries while you’re still alive, so they’ll know what to expect. If you’re not comfortable having these sorts of discussions with your heirs, you might prefer to leave a letter of instruction to be read–or a video to be shown–after your death, explaining your actions.