Even if you've created an estate plan, are you sure you have included everything you need to? There are certain provisions that people frequently forget to put in in a will or estate plan that can have a big impact on their heirs.
Q: What is one of the most important things an estate plan should include?
A: 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.
Q: Why is an alternative beneficiary important in your estate plan?
A: 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. This means that state law will determine who gets your property, not you. By providing an alternate beneficiary, you can make sure that the property goes where you want it to go.
Q: Why should personal possessions and family heirlooms be included in a estate plan?
A: 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.
Q: How can I include these in my estate plan?
A: 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 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 bickering.
Q: How are digital assets becoming relevant in estate planning?
A: We are all conducting more and more business online, but there are some steps you can take to help your family deal with your digital property.
Q: What are some steps to take in including digital assets in an estate plan?
A: You should first make a list of all of your online accounts, including e-mail, financial accounts, Facebook, and anywhere else you do business online. Include your username and password for each account. Provide access information for your digital devices, including smartphones and computers. Finally, make sure 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.
Q: How can pets be included in an estate plan?
A: 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 can name a caretaker in your will and leave that person money to care for the pet.
Q: What else is important when including your pets in your estate plan?
A: Don't forget to name an alternate beneficiary here as well. If you want more security, in some states you can 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.
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