Important Details That Should Be on Your Estate Planning Checklist
The information you include in your estate planning checklist holds immense power over what happens to your family once you pass and overlooking important details can spell the difference between smooth distributions of assets to your beneficiaries or confusingly expensive court interventions.
While the fundamentals of your estate planning checklist are undoubtedly important—making a will, handling the trust fund, and planning for funeral expenses—ensuring the smaller cracks are filled in dramatically reduces the likelihood of unintended recipients receiving unintended benefits.
Here are some important details that our estate planning attorneys in New Jersey believe should be on your estate planning checklist.
#1 – A Strategy for Advance Health Care Planning
Also known as advance health care directives, advance health care planning should never be overlooked when starting your estate planning process, even if you’re young and healthy.
This plan will lay out, in writing, health care treatment directives that should be made on your behalf should you become incapacitated and unable to make those decisions on your own.
Leaving this critical detail out of your estate planning checklist will force the involvement of local courts to act on your behalf, a process that is complex and expensive.
#2 – Someone to Manage Your Property & Finances
Also known as power of attorney (POA), this designation places the management of your property, finances, and other assets in the hands of someone you know and trust once you cannot manage them yourself.
It’s important to remember that this individual does not have to be an attorney (yet an actual attorney should still draft the document).
Know Your Power of Attorney Classifications
There are several types of power of attorney. These include:
- Durable. This classification designates someone as your POA for life, even after incapacitation, unless you decide to revoke it. This type of power of attorney is in force as soon as you sign this document.
- Springing. This classification designates someone as your POA only for a specific life event, like if you were to become medically incapacitated, and grants them appropriate authority to make decisions and manage assets on your behalf. Typically, a springing power of attorney requires that two doctors sign off on the fact that you’re unable to make decisions for yourself. Because of this, most attorneys do not draft springing powers of attorney. Our firm also does not generally draft springing powers of attorney.
Knowing each type intimately will help you plan and decide to whom these benefits should go.
#3 – Proper Spousal Inheritances
If you made your will before you got married, you should always update your estate plan. This is something that is particularly important in a situation where you are re-married and may have children or other beneficiaries that you would like to leave assets to other than your spouse. Neglecting to do this could cause undue stress or fighting after your passing which is something that you will want to avoid at all costs.
#4 – Alternative Beneficiaries
Should the primary beneficiary of your life insurance and/or retirement plan pass away, and you’ve failed to designate alternative beneficiaries, the local courts will have to decide to whom your assets go, rapidly resulting in costly unintended consequences.
Naming alternative death beneficiaries prevent this from happening and ensures your assets remain in the hands of those intended.
Bonus Detail: Designating Proper Care for Pets
If you have pets, you can create legal documents in your estate planning process that outline who cares for your pets and how they’re cared for after you become medically incapacitated or pass away. You can even set up a trust fund for your pets, from which money can be withdrawn to cover veterinary care, food, and other expenses.
When you’re ready to set up your estate plan or you need help in putting together an estate planning checklist, schedule a consultation with our team!
Getting in touch
Borenstein, McConnell & Calpin, P.C. is a Wills & Estate Planning law firm serving Central and Northern New Jersey, as well as New York City. We strive not only to give you a great client experience, but to become your trusted adviser for life. To reach Alec, please send an email to email@example.com.
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Brooklyn, NY 11219