Industry News - Regulatory Updates
March 23, 2012
A comprehensive estate and inheritance plan
Even those who understand the importance of estate planning may sometimes unintentionally make things harder for their heirs and beneficiaries in a variety of ways. One simple problem is that an individual's heirs may not know about plans that have been made.
This means the family may have no idea where to find important documents such as a will, or may not even know they exist, minimizing the chance that they will be found before it is too late. For example, beneficiaries of a life insurance policy who are unaware of it or lack needed information may not be able to claim the plan's benefit, leaving it in the hands of the insurer indefinitely.
As a result of similar miscommunications, state treasurers are currently holding $32.9 billion in unclaimed assets, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. When the time comes, family members may need information on insurance policies, bank accounts and brokerage accounts, among other assets. If an individual makes his or her own funereal arrangements in advance, documentation may be needed for the family to follow through on those wishes.
Part of this issue can be resolved by providing a comprehensive list of documents to a trustworthy individual, such as an attorney. Among the most important documents are living trusts and wills, which can determine the disposition of assets, guardianship of dependents and other matters. Experts told the Wall Street Journal that living trusts can be more helpful than wills in some respects, since they may exempt assets from probate and are often harder to dispute in court.