If you have taken the step of creating an estate plan to help ensure your financial wishes are carried out, congratulations. You are well ahead of most people in this country. Forbes magazine reports that 51 percent of Americans age 55 to 64 don’t even have wills, much less estate plans.
But no estate plan is perfect. Many tend to overlook issues and assets that are either not obvious or so obvious that they go unnoticed. Some can have a significant impact on your family. Here are some of the most commonly overlooked items that should be included in an estate plan:
- Alternate Beneficiaries
Listing a single beneficiary is placing a great deal of trust in the health and longevity of one person. At least one alternative beneficiary should be included in case the primary beneficiary is unable to claim under the will. Otherwise your assets may be treated as if there was no will at all, and the state will determine who gets your property.
- Personal Possessions and Family Heirlooms
You should be very clear about which family member or heir should take possession of which items you leave behind. Even if an item is not worth a great deal of money it may have sentimental value. To avoid arguments and ill will among your heirs, prepare a personal property memorandum that details which family members or friends get which personal items. Do this in a memorandum instead of writing the items directly into your will (which can be difficult to change).
- Digital Assets
We are all conducting more and more of our business online, which leads to assets that reside in cyberspace. These must also be included in your will and estate plan or risk being put into probate.Make a list of all of your online accounts, including online banking, social media sites, online payment accounts (such as PayPal), along with your user name and password for each. Separately, create a list of access information for your digital devices: laptop, tablet, smart phone, etc. Make sure your will gives the executor or agent named in the will durable power of attorney that gives them the authority to deal with your online accounts.
If you have a pet who is likely to outlive you, you may wish to provide direction as to who the pet’s caretaker should be, along with financial resources to provide for the pet’s care. You cannot leave assets directly to a pet, but you can leave the designated caretaker money to pay for your pet’s needs, or set up a pet trust. Set up an alternate beneficiary for this too, in case your first choice of caretaker is unable or unwilling to perform his or her duties.
Get Our Free Personal Estate Inventory Tool
Gray, Gray & Gray offers a free Personal Estate Inventory planning tool that can help you identify and list assets and possessions that can help make your estate plan more complete. You can download it here.
If you have additional questions about estate planning or the tax issues involved, please contact Gray, Gray & Gray at (781) 407-0300.