When designing your initial estate plan or updating your current plan, think about your beneficiaries. Would it be prudent to include language to protect your beneficiaries or to take certain actions to make their life easier if you become incapacitated or die?
- Consult with a qualified estate planning attorney and have an up-to-date, legally valid estate plan in place.
- Update your estate plan regularly – every three to five years or sooner if something major changes in your life.
- Follow your estate planning attorney’s advice for proper asset ownership. If you have a trust, fund it. Avoid jointly owned property and make sure your beneficiary designations match your current intent.
- If your beneficiaries have any special needs or issues, disclose them to your estate planning attorney during your consultation. If you already have a plan in place, call your estate planning attorney and ask if the development affects your plan.
- Pass assets in a lifetime protected trust, not outright. Trusts provide asset protection so the assets are used only by your beneficiaries and not your beneficiaries’ creditors.
- Include special needs language in your trust so that an inheritance doesn’t disqualify a beneficiary from receiving governmental assistance.
- Include addiction language so if your beneficiary is suffering from a drug, alcohol, or gambling addiction, an independent trustee will distribute assets for the benefit of your beneficiary, but not directly to him or her.
- Include specific personal items for individual beneficiaries so they have something special to remember you by. Include a fair distribution system for remaining personal items. A high percentage of family fights are over personal possessions and final arrangements.
- Write down and share your wishes regarding final arrangements.
- Include an ethical will in your estate plan. This means that you jot down your wishes, guidance, and words of love for your loved ones.
- During your lifetime, tell your loved ones that you love them and that you’ve engaged in thorough estate planning. Explain who’s in charge when you die or become incapitated.
If your current estate plan isn’t in writing or doesn’t fully consider your beneficiaries’ needs, consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.