Beneficiary Designations

Financial POA: Copies & Storage

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Have you sometimes wondered about how well-prepared you are for the future?

Many people have told us that their familiarity with estate planning and probate is limited; many more say their wills are not up to date and few are aware of the extent to which an elder law firm can simplify these processes.

Our website offers simple answers to these and similar questions.

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Holiday Gratitude!

As 2017, draws to a close, we find ourselves reflecting about the year, the good, the bad, the ups, the downs, and the importance of family, friends, and loved ones. We are also immensely thankful for the relationships that we have with our clients, advisors and colleagues and are sincerely honored that you have chosen our firm to assist you with your planning needs. Wishing you the best this holiday season and a healthy, prosperous 2018.


Beneficiary Designations

As we enter the holiday season, remember how Ebenezer Scrooge learned that money isn’t everything in Charles Dickens’ classic story, A Christmas Carol?

The same is true for estate planning. Creating and reviewing your estate plan is a selfless way to protect and provide for your loved ones after you die; it’s not just about protecting your money.

When creating or reviewing your estate plan, review of beneficiary designations for retirement plans and life insurance is often not given the attention that it deserves. People often assume that their will or trust dictates how their retirement accounts and life insurance proceeds are to be distributed upon their death. This is not the case: One must have an up-to-date beneficiary designation in order to do this. This is a relatively easy task that some people inadvertently forget.

In addition to providing the security of having these assets go where one desires, beneficiary designations avoid probate, which is the court supervised process of distributed assets after one’s death. Probate is often costly and time consuming, and adds an additional “hoop” through which loved ones are required to jump.

Besides naming a primary beneficiary, it is recommended that you designate a secondary or “contingent” beneficiary, in case your primary beneficiary fails to survive you. In such a case, if you haven’t named a contingent beneficiary, the proceeds will become subject to probate, and may also be subject to additional taxes.

In addition, you should also keep in mind that if any of your beneficiaries are minors, policy proceeds and plan distributions should typically not transfer directly to them until they reach legal adulthood. If you have minor children or loved ones with special needs, then you may want to consider designating a specially designed Trust (such as a “Conduit” Trust, which may have tax advantages or a “Special Needs” Trust, which avoids the loss of public benefits, as the case may be) as the beneficiary.

Furthermore, did you know that from a tax perspective, having your trust as a beneficiary of your retirement accounts may not be a good idea? Discussing these issues with your estate planning attorney to determine what make sense to your situation is critical.

In short, keeping your beneficiary designations up-to-date and consistent with your overall estate planning objectives is important. A good “rule of thumb” is to review your designated beneficiaries and estate planning legal documents at least every five years, or after any major life event, like a marriage, divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, or the disability of a loved one.

Financial Powers of Attorney: Copies & Storage

While a financial power of attorney may seem like a simple document, it is actually very powerful and important.


Because a financial power of attorney allows a person you appoint — called your “attorney-in-fact” or “agent” — to act in your place for financial purposes when and if you ever become incapacitated or if you cannot act on your own behalf. It can permit the agent to pay your bills, make investment decisions, take planning steps, and take care of your family when you cannot do so yourself.

Once you settle upon your agents and the wording of your power of attorney, the next decision to make is this: How many originals should you have and where should they be kept?

Most powers of attorney include language saying that a copy should be treated like an original, but this is not always honored by third parties.

In addition, an original may be inaccessible for some periods of time. For example, in transactions involving real estate, an original power of attorney must be recorded with the deed.

While the power of attorney will be returned, that might not be for several months.

One option is to execute two (2) original powers of attorney — your attorney can keep one and you can take the other. You also have the option to keep the originals yourself or give them to your agents. It is also common for people to keep their originals with their attorney.

Telling your agents where the original documents are located in case they are needed is imperative.



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