Even if you’ve created an estate plan, are you sure you have addressed everything you need to? Four important but often forgotten estate planning considerations are described below.
1. Alternate beneficiaries
One of the most important things an estate plan should include is at least one alternative beneficiary in case the named beneficiary does not outlive you or is unable to claim under the will. If a will names a beneficiary who isn’t able to take possession of the property, your assets may pass as though you didn’t have a will at all. In such a case state law will determine who gets your property, not you. By providing an alternate beneficiary, you can be more assured that the property will go where you want it to go.
2. Personal possessions and family heirlooms
Not all heirlooms are worth a lot of money, but they may have sentimental value. It is a good idea to be clear about which family members should get which items. You can write a list directly into your will, but this makes it difficult if you want to add or remove items. A personal property memorandum is a separate document that details which friends and family members get which personal property. In some states, if the document is appropriately referenced in the will it is legally binding. Even if the document is not legally binding, it is helpful to leave instructions for your heirs to avoid confusion and disagreement.
3. Digital assets
We are all conducting more and more business online, but there are some steps you can take to help your family manage your digital property. You should consider making a list of your online accounts, including e-mail, financial accounts, Facebook, and anywhere else you do business online. You may want to include your username and password for each account. Also consider providing access information for your digital devices, including smartphones and computers. Finally, review whether the agent under your durable power of attorney and the personal representative named in your will have the authority to deal with your online accounts.
Pets are beloved members of the family, but they can’t take care of themselves after you are gone. While it’s not possible to leave property directly to a pet, you may be able to name a caretaker in your will and leave that person money to care for the pet. Don’t forget to name an alternate beneficiary here as well. In some states you may be able to set up a pet trust, under which the trustee makes payments on a regular basis to your pet’s caregiver and pays for your pet’s needs as they come up.
Contact your attorney to make sure your will and estate plan takes care of your needs and complies with current law.