As the close of another year approaches, this may be the ideal time to make sure all estate planning documents are in order and everything has been included. Estate Planning has been my topic for several weeks, and there seems to be ‘one more thing’ to discuss before moving on.
Generally, the first thing that comes to mind when the subject of estate planning is raised is the Will or Trust that is being used to take care of the family. For most everyone, these documents will transfer the deceased’s belongs to their surviving spouse and/or children; I generally refer to this type of plan as an “I love you plan.” While this may be practical for many, it does not address tax issues and may overlook three items that should be included.
While estate planning clearly considers the spouse and the children, for many families there is another “member” of the family that may not be included in the documents. This would be the family pet. First, I am not suggesting families leave thousands of dollars or other assets to their pets. However, some of the pets showing up at the shelters are from homes where the future care of the pet was not considered. Not every child is in the position to take in the parents’ pets. And then there are the families with a significant number of animals. Leaving instructions and, if appropriate, assets for the care and housing of the family pets will be one less item the executor has to handle on their own. It will also insure your wishes are achieved.
Almost everyone today belongs to one or more clubs, groups, or organizations. Most of these do not represent value; however, the memberships for airline miles do have worth and should be another consideration. For many of us, the balance may be insignificant by the time we pass. However, there are those that still have thousands of miles in their accounts. By adding instructions to the estate documents on the distribution of these benefits, these balances can be transferred to loved ones or perhaps to a charity that could benefit from free tickets. Each airline has specific procedures, and these should be reviewed to ensure these benefits accrue to their new owners. Even if specific instructions are not included, the airline may be willing to transfer any miles to the beneficiaries of the Will. By completing the appropriate airline forms, providing a copy of the death certificate, and paying the ‘transfer fee,’ the miles will not be lost.
Lastly, the third item that is often not included in the estate documents is the organization many of us pay first each month, the church. This may not be an area everyone wants to include, but many individuals are willing and want to make a gift to their church, but it is forgotten during the heavy and lengthy discussions often surrounding estate planning. Whether it is a gift of property, a fixed amount, or a percentage of the entire estate, the attorney can easily include this in the estate planning documents. It may be wise to visit with the head of the church to be certain they can accept the gift and abide by any specific instructions you may have.
The purpose of estate planning documents is to convey our last wishes, be the tool to transfer the ownership of our belongings to our heirs, and to provide instructions to complete any tasks remaining when we pass. As such and due to the complexity of our laws, it is best to have an estate planning attorney assist in completing these documents.
For help with estate planning and managing investment assets, contact me at Quality Financial Concepts or one of the other Certified Financial Planners in our area. To continue a personal quest for education, you can also view our website, www.goqfc.com. There you will find articles on a variety of topics, on-line seminars, calculators, as well as a host of other tools all available for free.