If you put your estate plan in place as a stopgap measure without giving it a lot of thought, you may have overlooked some important details. With this in mind, we will look at some of the elements that are often omitted in this post.
Letter of Final Instructions
Let’s say you are going on vacation and you ask your sister to take care of some things around your home while you are gone. You would not leave her a to-do list without providing instructions so she can find the things that she will need to complete the tasks.
In spite of this, people will often state their final wishes in writing, but they do not include any additional instructions to assist the executor or trustee. This is a detail that should be addressed when you are planning your estate.
A simple document called a letter of final instructions can be used to pass along the needed information.
It should include a list of names and contact information for people that should know about your passing. This would include professionals that will be involved in the administration process like your accountant, your insurance agent, and your attorney along with personal connections.
The location of relevant paperwork should be provided, and you should add access information for accounts that you manage online. Your administrator will need the location of collectibles and other tangible property along with keys to storage units, vehicles, etc.
Your preferences for final arrangements can be spelled out as well. Simply ask yourself what you would need to know if you were going to be taking on the responsibility and act accordingly.
If you have a dog, a cat, or some other type of animal, you may want to include your pet in your estate plan. Clearly, people usually outlive their pets, but this is not always the case. Plus, pet ownership can be very beneficial for seniors that have relatively short life expectancies.
You can create a pet trust to make sure that your pet is taken care of properly if you pass away first. When you draw up the trust, you name a trustee to act as the administrator, and they would have a fiduciary duty to follow the instructions that you record in the trust agreement.
The trustee could actually be the person that is going to care for the pet if it becomes necessary, but this is not a requirement. You can be very specific about the way you want your pet to be treated after you are gone.
To account for assets that may remain in the trust after the death of the pet, you name a successor beneficiary, so this is a turnkey solution.
Who would make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated late in your life? If you do nothing to prepare for this eventuality, the state could be petitioned to appoint a guardian to act on your behalf.
You can prevent this outcome and take the matter into your own hand if you execute the appropriate incapacity planning documents.
If you use a living trust as your asset transfer vehicle, you can designate a disability trustee when you execute the trust declaration. To name someone to manage property that is not held by a trust, you can add a durable power of attorney for property.
A living trust is an advance directive for health care that you should use to express your life support preferences, and you can add organ and tissue donation choices.
To name someone to make medical decisions on your behalf that are not related to life-support, you can add a durable power of attorney for health care. A HIPAA release should also be signed to give your health care agent the freedom to discuss your condition with your doctors.
Attend a Free Webinar!
We are conducting a series of webinars over the coming weeks, and you will come away with a great deal of useful knowledge if you attend one of these sessions. There is no charge, and they couldn’t be any more convenient, so this is an opportunity you should not pass up.
You can see the dates if you visit our Burlington, Vermont estate planning webinar page, and when you identify the session that works for you, follow the simple instructions to register.