Meet Pearl.  Pearl joined the office last fall and has quickly changed the culture.  In addition to having a keen eye for fashion, she entertains us with her simple outlook and excitabilty.  What gets her excited?  Here are few estate planning tips that get her really going:

  1. Sign your documents.  Every day Pearl watches clients come in to the office, discuss the structure and details of their estate plan and then watches the DeAngelis Legal team agonize over the language in the drafts.  But then the drafts are sent to you and they sit on the corner of your desk for months or in some cases years.  Either set up an appointment to review or sign them or send them back so Pearl can have a chew toy.
  2. Titling matters.   Adding your friend, neighbor, step-cousin to your account may seem like a simple way to transfer the account at your death, but Pearl says it is just plain stupid.  What happens when a creditor sues your friend and they attach the account?  Worse, what happens if the step-cousin “borrows” the funds in a cash pinch? Instead, use a payable on death designation or just transfer it to your trust.
  3. Fund your trust.  All that time, energy and money you spent on creating the perfect distribution scheme in your trust is waisted if the title to your house or other asset is still in your joint names with right of survivorship or the life insurance beneficiary designation isn’t changed.  Titling all your assets in the name of your trust will save your beneficiaries time and money and give Pearl more time to chase her tail. This is one of Pearl’s best estate planning tips for avoiding probate.  For more information on funding your trust see Fund Your Trust!
  4. Keep your originals in a safe place.  Pearl is not a search and rescue dog.  Do you want her rifling through your drawers looking for the original will?  The thought of using her delicate nostrils for something so mundane as searching a deceased person’s house for clues as to the location of the original documents make her snort, repeatedly.  Yes, we live in digital world, but to avoid unnecessary administration expenses we are going to need the original will.
  5. Review your documents every 5 years.  Pearl’s world changes daily with her outfits.  Life changes, the tax code changes, your preferences change.  Keeping the documents current will help minimize the number of headaches Pearl has upon your death or incapacity.
  6. Don’t write on the originals.  If you want to make a change to your documents – call us, show us the changes on a copy, send us an email or just visit us to explain what you want done and see Pearl’s outfit of the day.  Adding language to a document is not a codicil.  A codicil has the same signing requirements as the will.  If it is worth changing, then it is worth changing correctly.  Anything else may turn your document into cat litter or a dog fight, or both.

These are Pearl’s best estate planning tips.  Stay tuned for more of Pearl’s Wisdoms.