Choose Your Administrator Carefully
If you do in fact use a will to state your final wishes, you would name an executor in the document to act as the administrator. You should be very discerning when you are choosing the executor, because it is not just a ceremonial title that you bestow upon someone you trust.
The executor must admit the will to probate and adhere to the legal guidelines. Assets must be identified, inventoried, and prepared for distribution to the heirs to the estate. An estate bank account must be opened, and final debts will be paid during probate.
These tasks can be time-consuming, and a good bit of financial and administrative acumen is required. You have to make sure you choose someone that is capable of handling this type of assignment, and of course, they have to be willing to assume the role.
If you use a living trust instead of a will as the centerpiece of your estate plan, the tasks will be similar, so the trustee selection is key.
You can potentially use a professional fiduciary to act as the trustee or an executor if you do not know anyone that is a good candidate. Trust companies and the trust departments of banks provide estate administration services, and this can be the right choice for some people.
Include a Letter of Last Instructions
Your administrator is going to need certain information only you can provide, and you can pass it along in a letter of last instructions.
The letter should include names and contact information for people that should be notified about your death. People that you know on a personal level can be listed along with relevant professionals, like your tax accountant, insurance agent, estate planning attorney, etc.
The executor or trustee will need to know the location of important documents and physical property, and you should pass along access information for accounts that are managed online.
These are a handful of the details that should be addressed, but you can simply apply common sense when you compose the letter.
Review Beneficiary Designations and Add Successors
You designate a beneficiary when you take out a life insurance policy, and this would also apply to your individual retirement account. It is important to make sure that you keep these documents up-to-date and make the appropriate revisions if you want to change the beneficiaries.
There is another consideration that many people completely overlooked. You should have successor beneficiary choices so that there is a fallback plan. If the primary beneficiary passes away before they receive the funds, a complicated situation can ensue.
Everyone is well aware of the financial part of the equation when it comes to estate planning, but there is another consideration. Your plan should include an incapacity component because many elders become unable to handle their own affairs toward the end of their lives.
A living will is in an advance directive for health care that is used to state your preferences regarding the use of feeding tubes, artificial nutrition, resuscitation, and mechanical respiration. You can add your comfort care medication and organ and tissue donation choices.
Another directive that is equally important is a durable power of attorney for health care. This document is used to name someone to make medical decisions for you that are not related to the life-support scenarios that are addressed in your living will.
You can add a durable power of attorney for property to name a financial representative. If you have a living trust, you would act as the trustee while you are fully capable, and you can designate a disability trustee to manage the trust in the event of your incapacity.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
We are here to help if you are ready to work with a Smithtown, NY estate planning lawyer to put a plan in place. You can send us a message to request a consultation appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 631-265-0599.