How To Effectively Formulate And Execute Your Estate Plan
Whether you are updating an existing plan or formulating a new one, there are several considerations to make when creating your estate plan. In last week’s blog we provided a six point year end checklist that covered important items you may want to think about as the new year approaches and you work on reviewing your estate plan to ensure that it is continuing to work for you.
Here are additional items to consider, plus often overlooked items that you will want to address as you begin your estate plan.
For effective estate planning, think about:
Probate can be costly and time-consuming, and is a procedure that you will want to keep your family and loved ones out of if at all possible. The best way to avoid probate is to establish and fund a revocable trust by forming the trust, then retitling assets into the name of the trust. If you have taken care of this prior to your passing, then the probate court’s involvement in your estate is minimal. If you have not, the probate court will handle the distribution of your assets according to how they assume one would normally want their assets passed on, which means that your property could be distributed to an individual you would not normally name.
Also, remember that your will becomes a part of the public record when it is filed with probate court upon your death and is accessible by any member of the public. Other court filings in relation to your estate may also be viewed by anyone who wishes to see them. By funding a revocable trust, you may keep certain parts of your estate private, including the complete list of your assets.
Having a trust in place is very beneficial for your family because you have many options, such as:
- Planning for Special Assets: Special assets can include business interests and out-of-state real estate that you want to make sure remain in the family.
- Descendant Inheritance: You may stagger distributions to coincide with your descendants reaching certain ages. Without staggering, your descendants are able to receive their full inheritance at one time.
- Special Needs Planning: For those with a loved one who has special needs, you can ensure that they will continue to receive the government assistance that is available to them by forming a specialized trust specifically to hold onto their inheritance.
If you have minor children, think about who you would want to care for them. These named individuals will become your children’s guardian. It is important to be specific in your documents because without clear instructions, the probate court could become involved and appoint individuals they feel should be named guardians, rather than taking your request into consideration.
Let us know if you plan on charitably giving upon your passing. We can guide you in understanding which of your assets are best to pass to charity.
Once you have your estate plan formulated the way you want it and have completed proper execution of your documents, keep in mind your work is not done! Although, at this point we have likely discussed your wishes, the distribution of your assets and the individual(s) you have trusted enough to list as your personal representative and trustee, it is important that you make the most of your estate plan by following this short guide:
Funding Your Trust
You have created a revocable trust and now, you must fund that trust to ensure optimal performance of that trust upon your death. As we have discussed, a main benefit of executing a revocable trust is to avoid probate, but if you fail to fund your trust, your estate will likely end up in probate anyway. Let our office know if you would like assistance in properly titling your assets.
Designating Your Beneficiaries
Certain types of accounts must be titled correctly, with your intended beneficiaries properly identified, for the beneficiary to receive the assets and accounts you have in mind. Examples of account types include: retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and certain transfer on death accounts. We recommend contacting the insurer or account holder to complete their specific beneficiary designation forms.
Sharing Your Estate Plan with Loved Ones
As we go through your estate planning process, we will also discuss where you intend to store your documents. We recommend you store them in a safe deposit box or a safe place that is still accessible to your loved ones and/or named representatives. Keeping your documents in a place that is inaccessible to those who will need them can delay the administration of your estate.
It may also be helpful to share your estate plan with selected loved ones and other individuals such as your accountant and financial advisors. Another action item that we suggest is to prepare a document for your loved ones that includes a complete asset list, contact information for the Kira Doyle Law office, a list of passwords to digital files and assets, and other relevant information for your estate plan, such as burial and health care instructions.
Turn to a St. Petersburg Estate Planning Attorney for Guidance
The experienced attorneys at Kira Doyle Law will guide you through the estate planning process to ensure your wishes are being heard and your assets are protected. For more information about our estate plans, call us at 727-537-6818 to schedule an appointment.