Many people have not looked at the beneficiary designations on their Life Insurance, Retirement or Annuity Accounts for years. With most of these accounts, you were most likely prompted to designate a beneficiary when you first opened the account. People do not realize that any beneficiary designation made on these accounts will override their will, trust, or other estate planning documents executed. Too often, an ex-spouse is inadvertently left as a beneficiary or a later born child is omitted. Taking the extra step to add contingent beneficiaries to retirement accounts can even result in dramatic tax savings for your loved ones. A few minutes of work on your end can eliminate grief and consternation for your heirs after you pass.
So please, review all those designations to ensure they reflect your current wishes.
Many people mistakenly think that they have control over a loved one’s property by virtue of being a parent, a child, or a spouse. This is wrong! If you are disabled (hospitalized, nursing home) and unable to act for yourself, no one else can deal with your property. No one else can speak with social security, the IRS, the bank, even a utility provider if the account is solely in the unavailable person’s name. This even includes assets that are jointly held. Everyone, even young adults, should have a Durable Power of Attorney appointing someone they trust to immediately step into their shoes. Otherwise that loved one will need to get a guardianship and/or conservatorship to gain access, which is time consuming, burdensome, and extremely expensive.
Durable Powers of Attorney have strict requirements from state to state. For example, Maine has statutory notices that must be in every Maine Durable Power of Attorney. Grabbing a Durable Power of Attorney on-line is not a good solution and puts you at risk for having invalid documents.
Don’t ignore this critical document and leave your assets unprotected. EVERYONE must have a Durable Power of Attorney today.
Kathryn Bedell 12/12/2018