I was having lunch with a renowned estate planner. “Bob,” I asked, “What’s your exit strategy?” “Die,” he responded brightly.
It doesn’t get simpler than that, but the results can be haphazard, and the cost ruinous. Not to you, of course, because you’re dead. I guess that was Bob’s happy insight.
I make a living serving people who fret about death and disability, and insist on planning for it. They want wills, sometimes revocable trusts, and powers of attorney. This article is not for them.
This article is for the underachievers. To those who refuse to plan, I salute you. I also have some advice that, while short of a proper plan, might ease things for your caretakers and your heirs.
If you live happily ever after, you will become disabled, and someone else must pay your bills. A power of attorney or a revocable trust are the most effective ways to enable someone else to use your money, but since you’ve given up before you started, those are off the table. Instead, add a joint owner without right of survivorship to your bank account. Dead or alive, the other owner can access your funds to care for you now or pay for a funeral later, and can distribute the remainder to your family without probate. Avoid survivorship bank accounts. The survivor doesn’t have to share. If they do, it can be a taxable gift.
Do use survivorship agreements to keep your car, motorcycle, boat, and trailer out of probate. The State of Texas printed one for you on your original motor vehicle title. Parks & Wildlife has separate forms for boats and motorhomes.
Direct deposit your IRA distributions into the joint account. Make it automatic and have federal income tax withheld. Direct deposit your Social Security there, too.
Buy life insurance. Leave it to someone who doesn’t need it and who cares. The State of Texas has already written a will for you. It’s called the laws of intestacy. Probate will be required to confirm your heirs and to clean up the mess you left. It will be more expensive because you did not plan, but a happy family with money can solve a lot of problems.
Note: This article was not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer.