If you recently received an inheritance, or are expecting to receive one in the near future, it has likely triggered mixed emotions in you. You have lost a loved one and also experienced monetary gain. Studies show that a third of Americans who received an inheritance completely spent it within two years of receipt. Below are five practical steps for you to follow to maximize and protect your inheritance.
Take your time. Allow yourself to be emotionally ready. Making decisions on what to do with your inheritance while you are experiencing challenging emotions is not optimal. Be sure to commit to self-care — whether counseling, meditation, or family and spiritual support to help you work through this process.
Get advice. Before you make any major decisions — such as paying off debt, investing in a business idea, or something else — make sure you seek professional financial advice. This is especially true if you have never managed a large amount of money before. Of note, an inheritance may affect your ability to receive certain benefits, so working closely with an attorney can help minimize any impact it may have.
Strings attached. Understand whether or not there are any restrictions to receiving your inheritance. Whether you are being given the assets outright, relying on trustee discretion as to the distribution timing and amount, or something in between, your estate planning attorney can help provide solutions for you. The estate planning attorney can also assist you if you are subject to a state inheritance tax.
Update your estate plan. An inheritance will change your asset level and mix. Therefore, your personal estate plan needs to be reviewed and possibly adjusted to make sure you are fully protecting yourself and your loved ones.
Great expectations. If you are yet to receive the inheritance but it is on the horizon, consider working with the relative that will leave assets to you and your estate planning attorney. Creating an “inheritor’s trust” instead of leaving the assets to you outright — although a difficult topic to discuss — can provide long-term asset protection and preservation for you.
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Receiving an inheritance can be bittersweet and emotions may run deep during this time. But putting your inheritance to work to help achieve your short-term and long-term financial goals is a great way to avoid misusing these assets.