Tips for estate planning in Delaware

According to a 2021 Gallup poll, less than half of U.S. adults have a will. Setting aside time for drawing up a will isn’t exactly how you want to spend a Saturday when, statistically speaking, you are decades away from having to worry about such things.

For the sake of your heirs, having a will prepared at any age is in everyone’s best interest. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your estate.

Make a comprehensive list of your assets

It’s easy to just say “so-and-so will get the house and whatever’s in the bank,” but by middle age we tend to have assets spread around. This might include property, vehicles and boats, IRAs, 401k accounts, bonds, investments, one or more retirement accounts, luxury items and virtually anything else that may be considered valuable.

Once a comprehensive list has been completed, then you can start deciding who will inherit what.

Guardianship & Trust

If your children are minors, you should choose a guardian who would care for them after your death. You should also name who will manage any property and inheritance that your minor child receives. You can name the same person for both of these roles, or name different people.

Delaware doesn’t have inheritance tax

The good news is if the decedent was Delaware residents, there is no inheritance tax due on the Delaware estate, even if the State where the beneficiary lives does have inheritance tax.

Delaware does have an estate tax – for some

Unless you are fabulously wealthy, this is actually more good news. As long as the estate in question is less than the Estate tax threshold (which is in the millions), heirs and beneficiaries will not have to pay an estate tax.

Enlist an executor

If your estate is vast, or there are many heirs, consider hiring an executor to distribute assets per your will, rather than naming a friend or family member. Family feuds over money, property and prized jewelry don’t just happen in movies. An impartial executor will greatly reduce the risk of challenges and hurt feelings.

What happens if you die without a will

This is what you want to avoid, particularly if there are many potential heirs involved. In Delaware, when someone passes away without a will, concrete intestacy laws determine how your estate is distributed.

Also, known as “intestate succession,” this process does not account for the status of various relationships or a non-standard familial hierarchy. An estranged spouse, child, parent or long-lost child born outside of marriage could get far more than you might have intended if you had drawn up a will.

While you can draw up a simple will on your own, anyone with a vast estate or a large family should consider speaking to an attorney.