Key Provisions People Fail to Include in Their Estate Plan

04Dec, 2017

As 2017 comes to an end, now is a good time to review your estate planning documents to make sure you have included everything you need. Even if you’ve created an estate plan, are you sure you included everything you need to? There are certain provisions that people often forget to put in in a will or estate plan that can have a big impact on your family.

1. Alternate Beneficiaries

One of the most important things your estate plan should include is at least one alternate beneficiary in case the named beneficiary does not outlive you or is unable to claim under the will. If a will names a beneficiary who isn’t able to take possession of the property, your assets may pass as though you didn’t have a will at all. This means state law will determine who gets your property, not you.

2. Personal Possessions and Family Heirlooms

Not all heirlooms are worth a lot of money, but they may contain sentimental value. It is a good idea to be clear about which family members should get which items. You can write a list directly into your will, but this makes it difficult if you want to add items or delete items. A personal property memorandum is a separate document that details which friends and family members get what personal property. This memorandum is helpful because it contains instructions for your heirs to avoid confusion and bickering.

3. Digital Assets

More people are conducting business online.  What happens to these online assets and accounts after you die? There are some steps you can take to help your family deal with your digital property. You should make a list of all of your online accounts, including e-mail, financial accounts, Facebook, and anywhere else you conduct business online. Include your username and password for each account and access information for your smartphones and computers. You should also make sure the agent under your durable power of attorney and the executor named in your will have authority to deal with your online accounts.

4. Pets

Pets are beloved members of the family, but they can’t take care of themselves after you are gone. While you can’t leave property directly to a pet, you can name a caretaker in your will and leave that person money to care for the pet. Don’t forget to name an alternate beneficiary. If you want more security, in some states, you can set up a pet trust. With a pet trust, the trustee makes payments on a regular basis to your pet’s caregiver and pays for your pet’s needs as they come up.


With a new year approaching, it is the optimal time to have your estate plan reviewed by an estate planning attorney.  If you would like to have your existing plan reviewed or one created, we would be happy to work with you!

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