Many people think of an estate plan as having a will in place, maybe having a trust or power of attorney drawn up. And once those documents are drawn up and signed, they are good to go. While those are, of course, great steps in the right direction, here are 5 things you should do after those are drawn up to ensure your estate plan is complete.
Review retirement accounts.
Any retirement accounts that allow you to identify a beneficiary should be reviewed. It is important to ensure you have beneficiaries designated and that you keep those beneficiary designations up-to-date. If you do this, those accounts will go directly to your beneficiaries and will not have to go through the probate process. It is a simpler, quicker way to get your assets to your loved ones. On top of insuring the right people inherit your property, proper designations may also allow beneficiaries to defer taxes, maximizing the value of the retirement accounts.
Assign TOD designations.
Many accounts allow you to designate someone to which your property will “transfer on death”. This means that once you pass away, these accounts will be transferred directly to your loved ones, again by-passing the probate process. Keep in mind that if you are using a trust as part of your estate plan, you may not need TOD designations to avoid probate.
Accounts that typically allow you to have a TOD designation include bank savings, CDs, brokerage accounts and stocks. Again, make sure your designations are properly recorded and stay up-to-date. The key to this and retirement accounts is that these designations need to be made with the companies themselves, instead of in a will.
Assign beneficiaries for life insurance.
In general, it’s a good idea to list at least two beneficiaries for life insurance, whether they each receive half or you list a back-up beneficiary. If your life insurance policies do not have beneficiaries designated, this money will go to your estate and have to pass through probate. This means two things: the person you wanted to receive the money may not receive it, and it will cost more money by going through probate. As with the first two to-dos listed above, it’s a good idea to review these designations once a year to ensure they are still in line with your wishes.
Talk with your family.
It’s important, after you create your estate plan, to talk with your loved ones. This is particularly important for individuals who you have named as executors or guardians. While you should also have those conversations before naming them in your estate plan, to make sure they are willing and able to take on the role, it is also good to have a conversation afterwards to let them know they are named in your estate plan. You will also want to let them know where they can find your important documents should something happen to you. Ensuring everyone is on the same page now can reduce confusion down the road.
Make a plan to review and update your estate plan.
Life happens and circumstances change. Plan to review your estate plan every few years to ensure it is still appropriate, given changes in the law and changes in your life. You should also plan to review your plan around major life events – births, marriages, divorces and deaths. This will ensure your wishes are carried out as seamlessly as possible.
Most of us plan for the future well-being of our loved ones, but are we overlooking something important? It’s just as important to plan for your future well-being through long-term care planning. We don’t know what the future holds; it’s best to be prepared and hope we never have to put your long-term care plan into action. Through long-term care planning you can make sound, smart decisions about your future in case you are unable to do so later on in life. Here are 3 things to know about long-term care planning:
In creating your long-term care plan, you should think about where you want to live in the future. Do you want to remain in your home if possible? Or would you prefer to move into a smaller home where you have more assistance and amenities?
If you want to remain in your home you should consider how to make that possible. Consider things such as:
- whether your home can be modified should you have physical impairment;
- whether there are services in your area that can assist you in your home; and
- whether your community is accessible, through public transportation or otherwise, should you no longer be able to drive.
Should you be unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself in the future, do you know who will make those decisions? Have you legally designated an individual as your healthcare power of attorney to make those decisions? Does that individual know and understand your wishes?
Have you made those wishes clear in an Advanced Directive for Healthcare? Do you have a back-up designation should that person no longer be able to serve on your behalf? Have you executed a Do-Not-Resuscitate Order and/or Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment, if that is what you wish?
Have you considered the financial ramifications of your long-term care plan? Things to consider to ensure you have the funds to carry-out your long-term care plan are:
- Long-term care insurance;
- Medicare and Medicaid;
- Social Security;
- Pensions and retirement accounts; and
- Savings or other investments that can be used.
Depending on which assets are available to you and the plan to have in place, you should create a financial plan to ensure your wishes are carried out. Remember that you may not be able to make financial decisions for yourself at some point so be sure to designate someone through a Power of Attorney who can manage your funds and assets for your benefit. Consider trust planning, as well.
We know we asked more questions than gave answers here. Asking yourself questions is the first step to creating an effective long-term care plan. The goal is that your wishes are made clear and are able to be carried out by your loved ones in the future. Of course, if you are unsure of the answers to any of the questions you are asking yourself, we are here to help you find the right answer for you.
In order to make sure that things go the way you’ve planned, it’s a good idea to occasionally double check who you have listed on your IRA beneficiary form. Putting together a solid estate plan with your Savannah will and trust lawyer is an important step in protecting the future of yourself and your family.
In order to keep things in line with your estate plan, remember that the beneficiary designation form may be the final voice on who gets your IRA. That can happen, even if you and your estate planning lawyer have rewritten your will. (Yes, the designation form can outrank your will!) If you’ve had a change in your relationship with the person you previously designated, you’re going to want to get that form changed.
It’s actually pretty common for individuals to not even know where that form is, despite the fact that their IRA may be the most valuable thing they’re planning to leave behind. If you haven’t seen a copy of your form in awhile (or ever), you or one of our Savannah estate planning lawyer need to contact the IRA administrator and get a copy to keep somewhere appropriate.
When you get that copy, take the time to review it. You may see that plenty has changed since you set up your IRA. Children, divorces, spouses, and even grandchildren may have come into play since that time. Along those lines, if you’ve lost a child but want to ensure that his or her family receives a portion of your IRA, you will need to list them on the form because a deceased child cannot inherit. In fact, anytime a beneficiary has passed away, it will affect your estate. You can make this a little less of an issue by making sure to name backup beneficiaries.
If one or more of your beneficiaries is under the age of 18, your Savannah will and trust lawyer may advise you to use the IRA to fund a trust instead. This will give you a whole lot more say in how the money gets used. In fact, even if you are leaving it to someone older, a trust still might be the way to go for several compelling reasons.
These are just a few of the complications that can come along with not properly designating beneficiaries for your IRA. There are others that might come into play, as well, and a Savannah will and trust lawyer should be able to go through them with you to create the best plan possible.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at 912-352-3999
Parenting isn’t always easy, and it’s even less so when your child has special needs. We all have dreams of our children reaching full independence, but sometimes, this just isn’t possible. Our children may have needs that go beyond what others require. Special needs may that demand specific planning in order to make sure that the child is well looked after once the parents are gone.
In a nutshell, special needs planning in Savannah is the legal and financial plan to take care of a child, often an adult child, whose disabilities require that they have scaffolding in place to live a full, healthy life. These children may have physical, mental, or both types of needs that require additional care. As adults, these children may not be able to live on their own or gain employment, for example, and will need a comprehensive plan in place to assure a secure future.
Special needs planning is something every parent of a child with disabilities must individually consider, as a “one-size-fits-all” approach is not likely to work. For example, a child may be in a wheelchair, but otherwise able to care for him or herself. This child may have great prospects, and as such, the plan may be relatively simple. There will be no need, say, for a guardianship of this adult child, as he or she is mentally fit to handle his or her own affairs and should be able to find gainful employment.
In other cases, however, the child may not be able to handle all of the details of adult life. Securing safe housing, paying bills, finding employment, and other needs may be beyond the scope of the child’s capabilities. In cases like these, a special needs and guardianship lawyer in Savannah can help the parents to formally define who will have control over the child’s assets and freedoms once the parents have passed away. A plan can also be put into place to safeguard a trust fund for the child to ensure a high quality of life.
Another important aspect of special needs planning is determining the transition plan once the child reaches adulthood. Some adults with special needs remain with their families; others move into group housing for adults who need extra care. Either choice may be right for your family, but determining what the future will hold for your child, and who gets to “call the shots” when you are gone, is a critical component of special needs planning.
A guardianship lawyer in Savannah can also help assist you in determining exactly what your child may need in the future to ensure proper quality of care. Likewise, by formalizing the details of who will have responsibility for your child and how their finances will be maintained, you can eliminate a lot of stress after you have passed away. Some families are disinterested in helping; others have people lining up to take care of their family member, but either way, having these details determined in advance is your best bet for taking care of your special needs child over the long haul.