Most of the clients of Surprenant & Beneski are happy to have their estate planning behind them so they can relax, knowing their loved ones and their assets are protected. This is why they are grateful to have our estate planning team to guide them as they make vital decisions. Without that guidance, there is always the chance that they will make mistakes. It is our experience that even seemingly small oversights can leave assets and families in disarray.
One of the most common omissions in estate planning is failing to name alternative choices for executors, guardians, trustees, beneficiaries, or healthcare proxies.
Why It Is Essential to Name Alternatives in Your Estate Plan
It no doubt will take some serious, time-consuming consideration to decide on the most appropriate individuals to manage:
- The distribution of your assets
- The care of your young children
- The administration of your investments
- The assumption of your healthcare decisions
Also, choosing your beneficiaries, while typically clear from the beginning, is also of great importance. When fate interferes with such crucial decisions, unless you have pre-planned by choosing alternatives, the court will intervene, making choices that may not be to your liking.
Reasons Your First Estate Planning Choices May Not Be Viable
Most of the time, the person you have chosen as executor, guardian, or trustee, and informed of your decision, will be agreeable to taking on her or his role. A small percentage of the time, however, the person you have chosen may not be available because he or she:
- Has predeceased you
- Has become physically, mentally, or emotionally incapacitated
- Has been convicted of a felony
- Has developed a conflict of interest
- Has had difficulties in her or his own life that make fulfilling these duties impossible
Also, an individual you have selected may begin working on the task only to become unable to continue. This is especially true if you have a large estate that takes years to settle.
In any of these situations, when your chosen individual is disqualified, unless you have selected a substitute, the court will appoint a person for the role according to legal protocol, not your desires. Imagine the possible problems if having someone you have not chosen takes over managing your estate or tending your children!
If a judge is required to name a new executor by issuing “letters testamentary,” the new legal agent will be authorized to act on your behalf. Unfortunately, if the judge’s action is unwise it may result in financial insecurity or familial conflict.
On the other hand, if you create your will with the assistance of a skilled estate planning attorney, you will have the opportunity to name co-executors and alternate executors. This will enable you to be proactive and will prevent you from relinquishing control in a way you never intended.
Why It’s Important to Pay Attention to Beneficiary Designations Too
You may believe that leaving money to your spouse and children is a simple process, but complications can arise here, too. Suppose, for example, that you are, or have become a single parent, and have left equal portions of your estate to each of your children.
If one of your children predeceases you, unless you have a will in which you have distributed your assets to each branch of the family (per stirpes), rather than to each of your children (per capita), you will be disinheriting your grandchildren from the child who passed away.
It is also important to take special care when dealing with beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts and insurance policies. Such assets can go awry if you have inadvertently continued to name your ex-spouse, or the ex-spouse of one of your children, as a beneficiary on an IRA account.
While your present spouse becomes the beneficiary on your pension account on the day you marry, this is not true on your IRA account which will retain your named beneficiary. An alert estate planning lawyer will have you check your estate plan and individual documents regularly to avoid such potential financial catastrophes.
Contact Our Experienced Estate Planning Team to Keep Your Estate Plan Foolproof
As soon as you contact our skilled estate planning attorneys, you will be reassured to find us trustworthy and conscientious. We will provide you with the mindfulness, precision, and personal concern you and your family deserve.