Tying Up Loose Ends In Your Estate Plan

By Blake W. Kirkpatrick, Esq., Florida Bar Board Certified Wills, Trusts & Estates Attorney –

By now, many, if not all of you have read an article on the importance of having an Estate Plan. Rather than focusing on a particular estate planning topic, the purpose of the article is to point out some of those items that are often forgotten in the estate planning context (outside of having a Will or Revocable Trust). A good estate plan is not based solely on having the right documents in place. A good estate plan should 1) provide a means to take care of you without creating a burden on yourself or your family should you become incapacitated during your lifetime 2) create an organized foundation so that the administration of your estate runs smoothly 3) carry out your intentions with respect to the disposition of your estate at your death in a manner that is tax efficient and, if desired, in a way that creates a positive lasting legacy and, 4) give you peace of mind and better sleep… After all, isn’t this Better Sleep Month?

Having the right estate plan is important; however, in addition, here are some commonly missed items that should be a vital part of that planning process:

  1. Beneficiary Designations – An item that is often overlooked in estate planning is properly designating beneficiaries on assets such as retirement accounts, pension funds, life insurance, etc. Also, generally speaking, beneficiary designations should tie in to the dispositive provisions in your Revocable Trust or under your Last Will and Testament, or, at a minimum, should be considered in relation to the provisions under such documents.
  2. Vacation Residence – Out-of-state Property – By not properly planning for real property and tangible personal property located in other states, such assets may be subject to probate and/or state estate taxes at death. Many northern states still have a state estate tax that is applicable at thresholds far lower than the federal estate tax, potentially bringing an additional tax to even modest estates. By taking one extra step to deal with these assets in your estate plan, it may be possible to avoid an additional probate administration and potential state estate taxes.
  3. Properly Titling Assets in Revocable Trusts – Once an estate plan has been executed, people forget to fund their Revocable Trusts, sometimes even after receiving advice to do so. Even more common is the situation when someone acquires a new asset or sets up a new bank account years or months later and takes title in their individual name rather than in their Revocable Trust. This may have more to do with a common misconception about the use of a Revocable Trust in the first place. This misconception is that the Revocable Trust is an estate planning document that is only needed by those with a high net worth, when, in reality, it is simply a document that enables one to have a simplified administration of their estate at their death (or in the event of their incapacity), provided the Revocable Trust is properly funded.
  4. Passwords and Safe Deposit Boxes – For things kept under lock and key, at some point someone other than you will need the keys.  Many people designate a Personal Representative or Trustee to handle their estate, but leaves such person little or no clues on how to locate assets or access accounts, computer passwords, etc. Certainly, proper balance must be maintained between keeping things secure and providing someone access to personal information; however, planning for when and how to share this important information with someone you have entrusted, will enable them to assist when needed.
  5. Separate Writings to Dispose of Tangible Personal Property – If you are wondering what asset in your estate will have the most emotion and possible contention connected with it, it will likely be an item of tangible personal property. Unfortunately, in terms of cost, typically these items are insignificant. When it comes to sentimental value, these items are priceless. Interestingly, by taking some simple steps to specifically identify which items of tangible personal property you would like to pass to your heirs you can ward off conflicts over such assets at your death (and inefficient legal expenses). In Florida, it is possible to have a separate writing to dispose of such tangible personal property incorporated by reference in your Will (or Trust).

Of course, there are a number of other items to consider when tying up your estate plan; however, these are just a few common ones that we see overlooked from time to time. Even people with simple estates have things that need to be handled at death or in the event of incapacity. Planning now to tie up all loose ends, will help to keep your fiduciaries from administering your estate with their hands tied.

This Article does not constitute legal advice and may not be relied upon as such. Each individual’s facts and circumstances are different. If you have any questions regarding your particular situation, please consult with legal counsel.

Blake W. Kirkpatrick is a Florida Bar Board Certified Wills, Trust & Estates attorney with the law firm of Salvatori, Wood & Buckel. Blake’s practice is concentrated in the areas of estate and tax planning, charitable planning, business succession planning, and estate and trust administration

y now, many, if not all of you have read an article on the importance of having an Estate Plan. Rather than

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