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Do I Need More Than a Will for an Estate Plan?

MP900387776The upcoming holiday season often provides opportunities to have those conversations that we often delay. Mix the practical in with the joys of the season and then you’ll be able to relax, knowing that you’ve taken care of some important personal business.

There are a number of things outside of the traditional estate planning documents, like wills, trusts, POA and others, says the American Legion’s recent article, “Planning beyond the will,” that need to be buttoned up, so that your estate plan will work as you had intended.

Beneficiary designations. This includes life insurance policies, IRAs, current and former employer retirement plans and annuities. A beneficiary designation supersedes any instructions in a will or trust. As a result, it’s important that your designations reflect your current wishes and are synched with the rest of your estate plan.

Property title. Be sure that you know how your property is titled. If the family home is titled as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, then it will pass seamlessly to the surviving owner. There are also potential income-tax implications. Ask your estate planning attorney about this and the best way to address title concerns.

Personal property plans. This could be as simple as giving your trustee or executor the authority to make decisions, designating instructions with respect to specific property in your will or trust, or incorporating a personal property memo into your plan. The guidance you give can alleviate major problems, when you’re no longer around to settle disputes.

A continuity book. In the military, it’s common that just as you’re getting used to your responsibilities, it’s time to PCS (Permanent Change of Station) or switch jobs. Many leaders require a continuity book that helps bridge that knowledge gap, so your successor has an idea of what to do. You can adopt this practice in your personal affairs. This can include an inventory of your assets, liabilities and insurance policies. This “continuity book” should also include your social media account passwords, key contacts, funeral wishes and the location of your key estate planning documents. This is an important resource for trustees and executors, as they assume their duties.

The hope is that your family will have many happy holidays together in years to come. However, preparing for the inevitable events of life is necessary in the meantime.

Reference: American Legion (October 18, 2019) “Planning beyond the will”