If you think of estate planning as something that is necessary only for the very wealthy, it might surprise you to learn differently. From keeping an updated will to having healthcare and legal powers of attorney, estate planning is so much more. And with all the paperwork involved to ensure your loved ones inherit what you intend, it’s easy to miss a step or two that can create an estate planning nightmare.
Whether you’re creating your first estate plan or updating an existing one – with the help of an estate planning attorney – there are some missteps you can avoid when you know what to look for. Here are a few tips.
An estate plan may include tax-savings strategies, but its basic intent is to govern how your assets are distributed when you’re gone. Many estate plans and wills go the even-steven route, simply stating that heirs receive the exact same percentage of assets. That works when you’re distributing cash. It doesn’t if you have to split Grandma’s brooch or Grandpa’s handmade chess set three ways.
There are two ways you might distribute the assets that can’t be split, and both begin with conversations with heirs to learn what is meaningful to whom. Once determined, you might distribute these assets while alive. Or you can add specific language to your will to ensure everyone gets their assets intact.
You don’t need a will to distribute life insurance policy proceeds, IRAs and other retirement accounts because they already have – or should have – beneficiaries designated. Another reason to not include this information in a will is the public glare of probate. If you must include this information in your will or estate plan, take extra care to make sure beneficiaries and assets line up.
Whether dealing with beneficiary-linked or will-directed inheritances, make it a practice to review your designations and will at least annually. Divorces, remarriages, blended families, new family members, and family deaths can create the need to redo beneficiary designations and change the terms of a will or estate plan.
Talk to an attorney to draft proper documents for your situations. Your financial professional can provide information about how life insurance may help in your estate planning strategy.
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