Estate planning can be complicated, but valuable. The piece of mind of knowing our loved ones are cared for and our wishes followed at the end of life is priceless, especially when that time comes. However, there are a couple of things that estate planners should be mindful of, prior to and after making their estate plans.
Joint ownership interests
First, be mindful of who is listed as a joint owner on accounts. Keep in mind that joint ownership means just that, so if one owner dies, the other owner now owns that account. And, it does not matter what the will states because the ownership stake in the account is controlling. This means that for a bank or brokerage account, the joint owner will 100% own that asset upon the other owner’s death.
This is also the case for any account that has a beneficiary or a payable on death instruction. These accounts pay-out the beneficiary outside of probate and do so without regard to the will as well.
Real estate and other usable assets
For real estate and other usable assets, like boats, cars, etc., post estate planning usage can complicate matters. For example, if the family home was originally slated to be bequeathed to multiple kids, what happens if after the estate plan is done, one of those kids moved back home to take care of a parent? What happens if that kid then did substantial remodeling to the home while living there? What if they were paying rent or living rent free?
Similarly, if this same bequest is done for other assets, like a car, but at some point, after the estate plan, it is used by one heir and significant improvements were done by that child? These are examples of how usage can change after an estate plan is done, and a reason why estate plans should be periodically revisited by Cummings, Georgia, planners and their attorneys.