You should consider the finer details when you are planning your estate, but many people adopt an overly simplistic viewpoint. They reduce the matter to the creation of a will, and they leave it at that.
Any estate plan is better than none at all, but this is a very profound final act of giving, and it should be given the proper attention. With this in mind, let’s look at three important estate planning details that are often overlooked.
Letter of Last Instructions
The written word is great, but there is a human element that you should carefully consider when you are developing your plan. Someone has to read the instructions and take the actions that will be necessary to bring your wishes to fruition.
If you use a will, the executor is the administrator, and a trustee fills the role when a trust is utilized. You should share the information that this individual will need when you are devising your estate plan, and this is done in a document called a letter of last instructions.
There is no etched-in-stone framework, but there are some components that are typically included in the letter.
First, you should provide the contact information for people that should be notified about your passing. These would include personal connections along with professionals that will be part of the estate administration process, like your accountant and insurance agents.
The letter should convey the location of relevant hard copy documents and access information for online accounts. You should explain how you want your social media accounts to be handled, and if you have websites or blogs, you should account for them as well.
Then there are simple hand-to-mouth details like the keys to real property, vehicles, storage units, and things of this nature. These are some essentials to think about, but you just have to apply common sense and ask yourself what the administrator will need to know.
Successor Beneficiary Designations
Life insurance policies, individual retirement accounts, and other financial accounts have beneficiaries that you name when you originally fill out the paperwork. You can also designate a successor beneficiary, but administrators that guide you through the process sometimes omit this detail.
Your estate plan should definitely include successor beneficiaries to circumvent potential complications that can arise later on, and you should periodically review the primary beneficiary designations.
If you have not looked at your estate plan in many years, you may not accurately remember your beneficiary choices and the percentages that you allocated at that time.
Advance Directives for Health Care
A proper estate plan will address the eventualities that you may face toward the end of your life. Advance directives for health care are necessary to prepare yourself for medical situations that may arise when you are unable to communicate your own decisions.
You can execute a living will to state your life-support preferences, and you can address each respective life sustaining technique individually if you choose to do so. This document can also include your comfort care medication and organ and tissue donation choices.
The other directive that should be added is a durable power of attorney for health care. You name a representative in the durable power of attorney that would be empowered to make medical decisions on your behalf if it ever becomes necessary.
These will be choices that are not directly related to the utilization of the life-support techniques that you addressed in the living will.
Another piece to the puzzle is a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) release. HIPAA rules are in place to ensure patient privacy, and this release will give your health care agent the ability to speak freely with your physicians.
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When you work with an attorney from our firm to create your estate plan, you can be absolutely certain that nothing will be overlooked. If you are ready to get started, you can send us a message to request a consultation appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 310-337-7696.
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