Meinzer Law Firm, PC

Estate plans should clearly address asset titles

Effective estate planning requires a significant amount of attention to detail. Even some of the most well thought out estate plans can fall on their face when seemingly minor things are missed. This is why it is often critically important to discuss estate planning with a legal professional who will know how to avoid common pitfalls and ensure that asset distribution is in accordance with a testator's wishes.

One way to ensure appropriate asset distribution is to double check how assets are titled. Although an individual can utilize a will to dictate how his or her assets will be distributed, this document will only address assets are part of the probate estate. That is to say that assets that already have a named beneficiary will not go to those heirs named in the beneficiary designation.

So, for example, the proceeds of a life insurance policy that names one adult child as a beneficiary cannot be redirected to another adult child even if a will says that all assets are to be left to that second adult child. This same logic often applies to retirement accounts.

So what can estate planners do to ensure that their estates are distributed according to their wishes? One of the best ways is to rename one's estate as the beneficiary of certain assets. Life insurance proceeds and retirement accounts be left to an estate, which would then leave them subjected to the terms of a will.

Titling considerations need to be carefully considered when real estate is involved, too. This is because property is often jointly held, but each owner may not want the other to obtain full ownership upon death of the other property owner.

Estate planning may seem relatively simple on its face, but the truth of the matter is that it can actually be quite complex. This is why it is often best to leave these matters to legal professionals who are skilled in this field. Those who want to learn more about how to customize an estate plan to meet their needs can reach out to an attorney of their choosing.

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