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Estate planning goes beyond wills

Estate planning has many components. Other estate matters musts be addressed even after wills are drafted.

In addition to a will, assets can also be left to relatives through IRAs, life insurance policies and annuities. Transfer of assets through these accounts bypasses probate, usually has tax advantages, saves time and usually requires submission of a minimal amount of proof, like a death certificate. However, it is essential to keep beneficiaries current to assure that property is not unintentionally passed to a former spouse or other unwanted beneficiary.

The largest disputes among heirs often involves sentimental personal property, such as jewelry, photos, antiques and other heirlooms. Adding a codicil to a will can eliminate disagreements. These documents can be continually updated without redrafting the will.

Digital assets also require more attention. Wills must contain specific language to bequeath digital assets, such as cloud-based photo albums and rewards programs.

It is also important to assure that a family member or other trusted individual has an inventory of online accounts and credentials shared in an online password manager. This will allow access to a 401(k) to start the death claim, end credit card accounts, update social media accounts and cancel automatic payments to utility companies and other services.

Finally, it is time to search through shoe boxes, lock boxes and desk drawers to locate old insurance policies, bank accounts, pension plans and other accounts. Often, people set up or received accounts from former employers or family members and have not dealt with them or received correspondence as time went by. Beneficiaries for these accounts should be updated, the documents should be organized, and these should be included in a shared password manager account.

An attorney can help draft important estate documents and provide advice on options. Legal representation can help ensure that an estate will be resolved expeditiously.

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