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Full disclosure and communication: Key to estate planning

Administration of one's estate is often more complicated than just drawing up a will. Many people think they are aware of how much they have in property and assets, and they can just have a will drawn up designating who they want to have what. While that is the general principal of a will, it is usually not that simple.

First, you should know that items that already have a beneficiary designated for them will override anything in the will. For instance, if you have an insurance policy or annuities, and you have designated a beneficiary for those funds or accounts, just because you include them in a will doesn't make the beneficiary designation now null and void. While assets in the will are dispersed by probate, items with beneficiary designations can be dispensed to the beneficiaries outside of probate.

This is why it is so important to have all of your information available when you speak to your attorney. Assets and property that are spread out in multiple trusts, wills and accounts may be accidentally overlooked. If your attorney is well informed of all of the different types of estate documents and records you have, they can keep up with it for you and ensure that one does not nullify another. You should also notify them whenever anything new comes into play or when any life changes occur, such as a divorce or changes in family members. Communication is the key to having a good estate plan.

When having a will drawn up, it is recommended to make a list for your attorney of any life insurance policies, annuities, retirement plans, IRAs, bank accounts, property and assets that you own. If they are already included in an estate plan, make sure your attorney knows this. Overlapping estate plans can not only be confusing to beneficiaries or those administering them, but can hold up the disbursement process or completely void your wishes.

Source: Forbes, "Your Will And Trusts Aren't Enough: Using Beneficiary Designations As An Estate Plan," Jamie Hopkins, June 02, 2015

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