A solid will is the foundation of a strong estate plan.
By creating a will, you can work to ensure your money, property, and other assets are distributed according to your wishes, and that your loved ones are provided for. However, there are limits to what a will can do and the type of assets it can protect.
As you craft your estate plan, you should keep in mind these 3 types of assets that can be difficult to leave behind in your will.
Pets. If you are a pet owner, you may be concerned about the future of your beloved cat, dog, or parakeet. Simply leaving money and instructions to care for your pet to a friend may not be the best way to ensure their long-term well-being, since there is little recourse to stop that person from deciding to use the money in other ways.
If you want to be sure that your pet is provided for after your death, you may want to create a thorough pet trust that names with both a trustee and guardian for your pet. Inside the trust, you can place money for pet food, veterinary costs, and other caretaking-related expenses, as well as detailed instructions for how the money should be used. Because it will be the trust that officially owns your pet, your trustee can always assign another guardian if the one you chose is not honoring the instructions in your trust.
Vacation properties. If you have a vacation home that you want to leave in equal shares to multiple beneficiaries, this can lead to arguments and complications. Problems may materialize if one beneficiary lives farther away from the home than others, or wants to sell his or her share. Instead of leaving behind your vacation property in your will, consider leaving the real estate in a trust. With a trust, you can assign multiple beneficiaries, and leave instructions on how the house should be shared and maintained, and under what circumstances it may be sold.
Airline miles. Airline miles might seem like a trivial asset to fret about, but many of our clients have amassed airline miles that are worth quite a bit. Unfortunately, many airlines do not allow you to leave behind miles in your will. Talk to your airline in order to learn more about their particular policy. In some cases, an airline may let you leave behind miles, but require you to make special arrangements in advance, and your heirs to submit an affidavit and death certificate. If your airline does not allow mileage bequests, your best option may be to gift trips to other people.
These are only a few examples of the many complications to consider when drafting your will and creating your estate plan. Effective estate planning may extend way beyond composing a basic will to include an array of tools, strategies, and special documents—including trusts and powers of attorney.
That’s why it’s essential to seek guidance from a Florida estate planning lawyer when beginning to plan for the future of your heirs. Your attorney can work with you to evaluate your unique situation, and help you determine the appropriate strategies and tools for your unique needs. He or she can also help you anticipate complications before they arise, ensuring your assets and property are distributed according to your wishes and your loved ones are provided for.
About the Author:
Christopher Q. Wintter is the founder of Wintter & Associates, P.A. and a board-certified expert in Trust and Estate matters by the Florida Bar. With more than 24 years’ experience as a practicing attorney, he also serves as an instructor and faculty member for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA)—the nation’s leading provider of legal advocacy skills training to practicing attorneys—and has earned the AV® Preeminent™ rating with LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell. He was also selected for inclusion in Florida Super Lawyers for 2011 and 2012 in Estate and Trust Litigation.