Forget to mention something to your mom on the phone, and you can probably just call her back. But forget something in your estate plan, and you may not have a chance to go back and fix it. As the sum of everything you’ve accumulated throughout your lifetime, your estate may be quite large and complex. When creating an estate plan, even the most cautious people can forget certain assets or important details.
To help you ensure your estate plan is as comprehensive as possible, be sure you haven’t left out these four often forgotten estate planning details.
Power of attorney. Hardly anyone considers the possibility of their own disability or incapacitation. However, in the event that you do become incapacitated, you can end up leaving your loved ones with a lot of stress and confusion if you don’t have a durable power of attorney in place. A power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint a trusted individual to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. By creating this document, you can leave your family with guidance on how to handle your financial and medical affairs and spare your family from having to ask a judge to appoint a guardian to manage your finances and care.
Digital assets. In today’s information age, you may conduct a great deal of your financial, work, and social affairs online. Neglecting to make accommodations for your digital assets in your estate plan could end up being a huge mistake—your online assets may be just as valuable as your other property and financial information. In fact, research estimates that the average individual today has more than $54,000 in digital assets stored online and in technological devices, yet 57 percent of people have not made a plan for these assets. To ensure your online personal, financial, and business accounts are left in the hands of a person you trust, be sure to create a thoughtful plan for the future of your digital assets.
Specialty assets. Assets that require special handling— such as family pets, wine cellars, and gun collections—may need to be handled by a purpose trust. A purpose trust is a trust that is created for a special specific purpose, and can be highly regulated to ensure the assets it protects are treated properly and according to the creator’s wishes.
Instructions. After going through the process of creating a plan for your financial matters, it’s important to leave your spouse or other survivors with the information they need to ensure your wishes are carried out. Be sure to leave behind instructions on where to find important documents, including wills, trust, insurance information, and tax return information. Include contact information for your lawyer, doctor, financial planner, and other key professionals. Try to identify and document any other important information your spouse or surviving children may need to manage your household—for instance, the location of spare keys and safes or the passwords for computers and tablets.
The best way to ensure your estate plan has accounted for every crucial detail is to consult with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. An estate planning attorney can review your plan for errors and omissions, and make suggestions for additions and amendments that could help to achieve you and your family’s unique needs. With the guidance and counsel of a skilled Florida estate planning lawyer, you can ensure your wishes are honored and your property and assets are distributed to the people you care about.
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.