What Do I Need in My Estate Plan in Addition to a Will?

This time of year, families gather to celebrate the season, offering an opportunity to air your plans for the inevitable.

American Legion’s recent article, “Planning beyond the will” says that it’s important that your estate planning papers are synced with your wishes and the current law, but you should also look at some items outside of the fundamental documents:

What Do I Need in My Estate Plan in Addition to a Will?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.

One of the main goals of our law practice is to help families like your plan for safe, problem free, and successful transfer of assets to the next generation.  Call our office today to schedule a time for us to review your estate plan and identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security.  Our office is located in Santa Ana, CA but we serve all of California including Irvine, Orange, Tustin, Newport Beach, and Anaheim.

For more information and articles on estate planning, probate, trust law, and business planning, please visit our website and subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.

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

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