Non-Financial Aspects of Estate Planning

When you think of estate planning is the only thing that comes to mind how your money will be distributed after you pass?  If so, think again. An estate plan outlines how the legacy you leave behind should be allocated and cared for after you are no longer there to manage it.  While your financial legacy could be a big part of this, you may want to make sure that other aspects are included in your estate plan.  

Here is a list of these non-financial aspects and a short description of each.

Healthcare Preferences

In addition to assigning someone to handle finances in your absence, in your will and estate plan you may want to assign the person you want to make health decisions for you should you become incapacitated. This includes in part a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) release form that names the individual or individuals who you want to have access to your healthcare information should you become incapacitated. Likewise, you may want to articulate clearly in your plan what medical procedures you do and do not want if you are unable to speak for yourself.

For example, would you want to be kept alive with a feeding tube or ventilator? Would you want surgery performed if the result would just be to prolong your life for a short time if the procedure is successful? In addition to making these preferences clear in your plan, you may want to also discuss these difficult issues with your family now, so they understand your preferences should anything suddenly happen to you.

Guardianship of Minor Children

If you don’t name a guardian to look after your dependents, (including minors and those you may care for with special needs) a judge will appoint one after your incapacitation or death.

An experienced estate planning attorney would advise you that your appointed guardian doesn’t have to be the person who manages the money left behind from your estate.  You can set aside money separately for the care of your dependents and have that money disbursed to the guardian by a trustee or other designated fiduciary.                    

Your estate attorney will work with you to avoid some of the common pitfalls of appointing guardians for your dependent.  One such pitfall is forgetting to discuss the appointment of someone in your will as a guardian with the person themselves.  It is essential that they agree with the appointment to avoid the issue being left to a judge to decide.  Another pitfall is the naming of a couple as co-guardians, which could become problematic if the couple divorces.  Your estate attorney will discuss options to deal with this possibility as part of drafting your estate plan.

Custody and Control of your Digital Assets

Do you have a robust online presence full of treasured photos and relationships.   Does your computer or cloud account contain important documents saved in ways that are inaccessible to others.                     

To allow someone you trust to take possession of these documents when you pass, you can instruct your estate planning attorney to designate that person as a “digital fiduciary” in your estate plan. The person you designate would be given access to your login names and passwords and have the responsibility to shut down or memorialize your online presence, depending on your preferences.

Your attorney may work with you to set up a living repository of your passwords and usernames to ensure that this information can be passed to others when you either become deceased or incapacitated.

“If you don’t name a guardian to look after your dependents, a judge will appoint one …”

Guardianship of Pets 

If you fail to make arrangements for your pets in your estate planning document, they are likely to either be passed around between relatives and acquaintances or simply “put down”. Your estate plan can specify exactly who will care for your pets and, if necessary, even make arrangements for how the pets’ expenses will be paid after you pass or become unable to manage the pets yourself due to incapacitation.

Inheritance of Family Heirlooms

Does your family have furniture, jewelry, books and other items that are priceless to family members.  You may want to designate which items are to be disposed of in thrift shops and antique shops and which should be passed on to those who would value them.  Take the time to articulate in your estate plan how you wish to distribute these items and preserve the story behind them in writing.

Burial Wishes

Creating a Disposition of Remains plan that discusses funeral arrangements and burial/cremation arrangements can be a gift to your loved ones. Planning how your body will be disposed and what would be on your obituary prevents arguments and uncertainty among those who survive you. 

South Florida Law

Estate planning is best done with the help of experienced professionals.  While tax and financial professionals can play an essential role in the process, there are many non-financial aspects that can best be handled by an attorney with experience handling such issues in your state.  South Florida Law is a boutique law firm with big law firm resources, allowing you to get the attention to detail and the experience necessary to draft and review documents to handle both the financial and non-financial aspects of your estate planning needs.

You never know when you will need to have had a plan in place.  Be sure to have one done before it’s too late.  Contact South Florida Law today via our contact form or (954) 900-8885.

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