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Non-will and trust estate elements

We've talked a lot about wills and trusts recently, but there are other elements of both the estate planning and estate administration processes that should be considered. From powers of attorney to basic beneficiary designations, it's important to understand how your legal estate plans interact with issues of finance and health.

One thing to consider if you are planning or administering an estate is that many financial accounts have built-in beneficiary processes. Life insurance is an obvious example; you have to designate a beneficiary for life insurance purposes. But many savings and checking accounts let you do the same thing.

When you assign one or more beneficiaries to such accounts, ownership usually transfers upon death -- or the presentation of a valid death certificate. The same might be true for certain types of investment accounts. Assigning a beneficiary doesn't necessarily keep such assets out of probate processes, and you should work with a professional to understand how these designations integrate with your estate plan and legalities of your state.

You should also consider issues that might arise before your death. What if you are incapacitated? What do you want done for you with regard to medical care? If you are mentally unable to make decisions for yourself, who do you want to care for your finances? You can use estate planning tools including powers of attorney and health care directives to establish these wishes.

If you are actively trying to handle financial or other matters for a family member who has passed away or who is in an incapacitated state, then you should know that such documents might exist. Working with an attorney to uncover such documents -- or reaching out to your loved one's attorney, can help you settle matters and look after your loved one's wishes.

Source:, "Estate Planning 101," Barbara Kate Repa, accessed Nov. 06, 2015

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