Everything can go more smoothly when tailored to fit an individual’s needs. This is especially true of estate planning, as Carol Ann Fey, of counsel at Artz, Dewhirst & Wheeler in Columbus, and Mary Eileen Vitale, principal at HW & Co. CPAs & Advisors in Beachwood, explain:
“The reason (to personalize your estate plan) is to make sure assets are taken care of properly and they end up going where you want them going forward,” Vitale says. “So, you want to make sure the parameters get assets transferred correctly. For example, if a beneficiary has special needs that need to be taken care of, you want to make sure your documents do that. Generic documents don’t typically take care of that. Even if you have ‘regular circumstances,’ everyone’s ‘regular’ is going to be different and you don’t know how that will affect how assets transfer.”
One clear example of this is do-it-yourself estate planning templates. Although there are a number of these templates available online that may appear to get the job done, it is difficult to know if these very general plans will end up covering everything you need.
As Fey states, “It may sound cliche, but estate plans are not all the same because individuals, their goals, and their families are all different. Many online or DIY estate plans may not be tailored to the state where the client resides, and there are too many factors or nuances in our family structures to make such a plan predictably reliable.”
Issues with estate planning templates may include things such as not accounting for the specific trustees or beneficiaries you want or reverting to someone you don’t want to benefit from your passing.
“You may have specific powers you want to give to trustees in certain circumstances and you might have specific thoughts, and in generic plans, you might only have a few options to choose from,” Vitale explains. “But plans made for you will encompass those needs and direct whatever specific powers you want beneficiaries and trustees to have. With a generic document, you’re not necessarily going to meet your specific wishes.”
When creating your estate plan tailored to your wishes and needs and those of your family and loved ones, consider the assets that you are looking to leave behind.
Vitale explains, “What those are will determine what you do. Who are the beneficiaries? Charities? Family? A mix? It needs to be complex and tailored in that situation. Everyone is going to have different answers to these questions and it is amazing that way. Some people may have legal heirs but they might not want to leave anything to them. So, it’s not so simple to use general documents if you have someone you’re purposely disinheriting for whatever reason.”
It isn’t only the “how much” that you will want to plan for, but also the how and when for these assets to be distributed. Depending on your situation, you may want to plan ahead for ways or make this process as simplified and as quick as possible for your loved ones. You might also want to consider delaying the inheritance you pass down until your beneficiary reaches a certain age or until a specific point in time.
“Some clients prefer to make bequests outright, and others may want a partner or spouse to, for example, remain in the marital real estate for a period of time, even for life, but not own the property, with the property to be distributed at a later date,” Fey says. “None of those things are accomplished in a DIY plan and are certainly not a part of the picture under the state’s statute of descent and distribution.”
For help creating an estate plan tailored to your needs, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.