There is more to estate planning than the creation of a simple will. In fact, a trust may be a better choice in most cases. We will examine the benefits of a trust versus a will in a different post. In this post, we will look at some of the finer planning details that people often overlook.
Letter of Final Instructions
If you have a will, the executor is the estate administrator. If you have a trust, the trustee is the administrator. For purposes of this discussion, we will focus on the executor, but the principles are applicable to a trustee as well.
A will sets out your final wishes regarding “who gets what.” Often an executor needs additional information to carry out distributions. This information should be shared in a letter of final instructions.
Common sense drives the letter of final instructions. Ask yourself what the executor must know to complete administration and carry out distributions.
For example, the executor needs to know the location of relevant documents like financial statements, contracts, and ownership documents. He/she will also need login information for financial accounts that you manage online.
Speaking of the online universe, you should also explain how your executor should handle your social media accounts. If you have websites and/or blogs, you should address this virtual property as well.
Include a list of people to be notified about your passing, including professionals such as your accountant, insurance agents, and personal contacts.
Practical matters like the location of keys to property, vehicles, storage units, etc., should also be included.
Beneficiaries and Successor Beneficiaries
Beneficiary designations on assets outside the will are important, as well.
You should have named beneficiaries on life insurance policies, individual retirement and 401(k) accounts, and some other types of financial accounts. Periodic review of these accounts and beneficiary designations is critical. If you have not reviewed the accounts in decades, you may not be certain who you named back then. Or, you may have known changes were needed, but you have procrastinated. Now is a good time to address these issues.
In addition to the primary beneficiary designations, you should also name contingent beneficiaries to replace the original beneficiaries in the event of their passing.
Advance Directives for Health Care
Estate planning is often looked upon as a purely financial endeavor. However, a proper estate plan will address medical matters that may arise at any time.
Many people become unable to communicate or to make sound medical decisions, and you should account for this possibility when you create your estate plan. Advance directives for health care address these problems.
A living will is one type of advance directive. This document states your wishes with regard to life-support. The living will may also include comfort care medication preferences and organ and tissue donation choices.
A durable power of attorney for health care is another type of medical directive. It names someone who you want to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so in situations not covered by the living will.
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If you work with an attorney from our firm to establish an estate plan, you can be certain no important details will be overlooked.
Everyone’s circumstances are different. Your plan must cover your situation. We are committed to understanding your goals, and devising a plan crafted to suit your needs.
You can schedule a consultation with an attorney in Oklahoma City by calling 405-843-6100 or one in Overland Park, Kansas by calling 913-385-9400. Or you can fill out our contact form to send a message to either office.