Make Sure Your Estate Plan is Well Organized

Oct 20, 2022

By Jeffrey R. Wolfe, Senior Vice President and Manager, Wealth Planning Strategies

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As part of Estate Planning Awareness Week, there’s usually a focus on getting your plan created or updated. However, it’s also important to get your planning organized and efficient. Know where your estate planning documents are located, and what they say. Often times people may have a will or trust “somewhere” whether that’s in a file cabinet or a safety deposit box. Those documents control what happens to your assets – and potentially your minor children – so be sure to keep your planning documents organized.

If you’ve created a trust plan, make sure you have titled assets into the trust. All too often clients leave the attorney’s office after signing their documents with a sigh of relief that “well we got that done.” That’s not the case, though. For your trust to control your assets you must title those assets from your individual and/or joint name to your trust’s name. Doing so puts those assets under trust control and failing to do so may lead to unintended distributions or the need to probate assets to get them into your trust. Please note, though, some assets cannot be titled into a trust, like IRAs and other retirement accounts. You can make the trust the beneficiary of those assets, but you should speak with your attorney to determine if such a designation makes sense for your planning. In short, make sure you have your assets titled properly.

Not only is it important for you to understand your estate documents, know where they are located, and properly title your assets, it’s important to share this information with key individuals. For example, you’ve likely named someone as your personal representative and/or your successor trustee. Have you informed that person of your request? You should ensure they know of your intentions and confirm they are willing to serve. If not, you may need to update your planning.

While you may not want to share the details of ultimate distributions, it is important to share the location of your documents. Your successor fiduciaries will need to know how to locate the documents and perhaps who your tax and legal advisors are so they can seamlessly transition into their roles when the time comes.

To help with this process, ask your financial advisor about the Estate and Financial Organizer available through Benjamin F. Edwards. This organizer provides for the accumulation of an abundant amount of information that can help you organize your affairs and provide a one stop shop for your successors to begin when the time comes to assume their roles.

Creating an estate plan and keeping it up to date is hard enough. Don’t let a lack of organization cause any issues for you or your beneficiaries.