With the increasing specialization of careers, individuals who are creating an estate plan may already have relationships with other professionals, such as an accountant, financial advisor and/or insurance representative. However, is the advice offered by those individuals fully integrated?
This is where the work of an estate-planning attorney can begin. If an individual has a variety of investment products and strategies, an attorney can work to ensure that the entire team of professionals or advisers is working toward the common goals articulated by the client. Those efforts should include a periodic auditing schedule, where an attorney can ensure that estate documents account for any newly acquired assets via beneficiary designations or transfer provisions.
Careful planning regarding non-probate assets and beneficiary designations can greatly minimize the provisions needed in a will. After all, a will governs the transfer of probate assets. Unfortunately, failing to periodically update estate documents may result in common mistakes, such as attempting to change a beneficiary designation by using language in a will. Individuals might also have the misconception that notice to former beneficiaries is required when changing a beneficiary designation.
Both views are incorrect. The law generally does not require notice when changing beneficiaries, and non-probate assets containing beneficiary designations are typically outside the domain of a will. Both actions can be encompassed in a comprehensive estate plan, however. An attorney can remind individuals when life events such as births, deaths, divorce or remarriage, career changes and other circumstances may result in an outdated beneficiary designation.
Source: Forbes, “Your Will And Trusts Aren't Enough: Using Beneficiary Designations As An Estate Plan,” Jamie Hopkins, June 2, 2015