When you fill out important contracts, you make sure to “dot the i’s and cross the t’s.” It is important to attend to all the details, because mistakes can yield costly consequences.
The same mentality should be applied when you are devising your estate plan. Yes, you have to create a will or a trust to serve as the centerpiece of the plan, but you should also address the finer details.
Let’s look at three important boxes that you should definitely check when you are planning your estate.
Letter of Final Instructions
If you use a trust to serve as your asset transfer vehicle, the administrator would be the trustee, and an personal representative is the administrator of a will. They will distribute the assets in accordance with the wishes of the decedent, but they need certain information to be able to complete the tasks.
You can pass along this information in a letter of final instructions. There are no rules with regard to what should be included, and the letter is not legally binding in any way. At the same time, it is an extremely important piece of the puzzle.
In the letter, you provide the names and contact information for professionals that will have a hand in the administration of the estate. These would be people like your funeral director, preferred clergy contact, your accountant and attorney, and your insurance agent.
The location of all of the relevant hardcopy documents should be passed along, and the administrator will need login information for the accounts that you manage online. You should also explain how you want the administrator to handle your social media accounts, websites, blogs, etc.
Advance Directives for Health Care
Your estate plan should address medical situations that can present themselves when you are unable to communicate. This is done through the utilization of documents called advance directives for health care.
One of these documents is a living will, and this type of will is used to state your wishes regarding use of life-support methods. These would include cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical respiration, and artificial nutrition and hydration.
You can address each different life-support technique if you choose to do so, and the document can include your organ and tissue donation choices. If you have comfort care medication preferences, you can record them in the living will.
The other directive that should be part of the plan is a health care proxy or durable power of attorney for health care. In this document, you name an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf that are not related to the life-support choices that you made in the living will.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was put into place in 1996 to ensure patient privacy. Your plan should include a HIPAA release that will give your agent the ability to access your medical records and speak freely with your doctors.
Beneficiary and Successor Beneficiary Designations
You should make sure that the beneficiaries that you named on your insurance policies, individual retirement account documents, and payable on death accounts are up to date.
Successor beneficiary designations should also be added, and many people fail to do this when they fill out the forms.
If the primary beneficiary passes away and there is no successor named, a complicated and time-consuming process can ensue. This can be avoided if you attend to this simple detail while you are alive and well.
Take Action Today!
Today is the day to end the procrastination if you have been going through life without an estate plan. We can learn about your family dynamic and your legacy goals and make suggestions based on the circumstances. Ultimately, you will go forward with a plan that ideally suits your needs.
You can schedule a consultation appointment at our Bluffton, SC estate planning office if you call us at 843-815-8580, and you can use our contact form to send us a message.
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