Your estate planning documents express your wishes for your own care and well being during your lifetime. They also guide care for your dependents, define legacies, and provide instructions about other matters in the future.
SageVest Wealth Management recommends that you review these important documents every two to three years; sooner, if you experience a significant life event e.g., marriage, divorce, birth of a child, etc. If it’s time to refresh your estate planning documents, consider addressing these sometimes overlooked items as part of your updates.
1) Only Having A Will
Too often, people execute a Will and think their planning is done. Two of the most important items you need are Financial and Medical Power of Attorney documents. These address who will make decisions, and by what guidelines, during your lifetime, in the event that you are unable to do so.
2) HIPAA Language
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 protects the privacy of your medical data. However, if you’re suddenly incapacitated, your loved ones may need to access those records in order to discuss treatment options with your doctors. Make sure that your Advanced Medical Directive or similar includes HIPAA release language that allows health providers to share medical information with your chosen representative(s).
3) Protecting Your Retirement Assets From Unnecessary Taxes
There are planning techniques that allow your retirement assets, e.g., your IRAs and 401(k)s, to be ‘stretched’ over your beneficiary’s lifetime. Stretch IRA provisions reduce potential taxation by allowing small amounts to be taxable every year, versus forcing a large taxable distribution. If your retirement accounts flow through your planning documents, special planning is required to retain preferential tax treatment.
4) Special Needs Bequests
If you have a loved one who faces permanent life challenges, you may want to consider establishing a special needs trust to ensure continuity of their care. This estate planning tool can help you provide for the one you care about without jeopardizing his or her eligibility for government and other benefits.
5) Caring For Your ‘Furbaby’
Many people view their cats, dogs, and other pets as family members. While you can’t leave money or property to a pet, you can use your estate documents to nominate a trusted individual or organization, set aside appropriate resources, and provide specific instructions for the care of your surviving animals.
6) Online Access
Regardless of the stringent terms of service often imposed by online providers, the right language in your estate documents can enable your chosen agent to be granted logon credentials and access to your online accounts (think about email, online accounts, FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and more). Some providers are now working to address this need directly e.g., you can now nominate a Legacy Contact under your Facebook settings.
7) Other Digital Property And Loyalty Program Points
By defining these items in your estate planning documents, they can be distributed in much the same way as other tangible personal property.
Perhaps the most common mistake is signing your documents and then failing to implement follow-up actions so that your plan works accordingly. This might include retitling assets, updating beneficiary designations, assigning property, and more.
SageVest Wealth Management can help guide your estate planning decisions with compassion, discretion, and a breadth of experience. We listen to your objectives so that we truly understand the values and priorities at the heart of your life, legacy, and wealth considerations. Please contact us if you would like to discuss these matters with one of our advisors.