J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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Attorney and CPA

Preparing a will with unforeseen eventualities in mind

Floridians who are diligently preparing for the future by making certain that their estate plan is in place should make certain to pay attention to everything. If, for example, the death of a testator was followed quickly by the death of one of the heirs, it can complicate matters. This is why it is important to be prepared for every eventuality with a will.

The idea of wills and trusts is to make sure that there are no missteps that can cause problems for the remaining heirs and the desires of the testator might not be fulfilled. Having a succession plan in the event of an unexpected death can be useful. This is true for those with significant assets and those with a more modest portfolio. If there are second marriages, people who do not have a great number of heirs, people with young children, and those who have special needs loved one are particularly vulnerable in such an event. When preparing a will, the following should be considered: a simultaneous death clause; survivorship deferrals; planning for the worst case; keeping an eye on beneficiaries; distribution of property; and protecting heirs.

The simultaneous death clause crops up if the deaths occur at the same time, but it cannot be determined with a certainty who died first. There could be problems deciding who will receive what from the will. This clause makes clear who will be declared dead first and can help with estate taxes and other issues. A survivorship deferral will detail that the property will be based on the condition that the recipient survives the testator. Preparing for the worst case scenario with default beneficiaries is wise. If, for example, there is an accident where a number of family members die, then there can be a beneficiary such as a charity.

The will might say one thing, but there could be assets that go straight to the beneficiary on a retirement account or insurance policy. There should be a primary and contingent beneficiary on these accounts. When distributing property, it should be decided how this will be done if the beneficiary dies before the testator. With heirs, it might be wise to have a trust in place in the event that someone with special needs or a minor is the beneficiary. Since wills and estates can be difficult to navigate, particularly in the above-mentioned situations, having legal advice is paramount. Contacting an attorney who is experienced with wills and protecting assets is always a smart idea.

Source: cnbc.com, "Why your estate needs a 'Titanic clause'," Kelli B. Grant, Jan. 10, 2017

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