By Bernard A. Krooks, Certified Elder Law Attorney
Estate planning is not something we look forward to doing. It forces us to think about things that are unpleasant such as who will make decisions for me if I cannot make them myself and who do I want to inherit my property when I die. Thus, there is the tendency for some to procrastinate when it comes to estate planning. Often, the client feels a great sense of relief after they have gone to their lawyer’s office and executed all the appropriate documents. However, that does not necessarily mean that their estate planning is complete.
A critical part of estate planning is ensuring that all beneficiary designations, joint accounts, in trust for accounts and related items have been taken into account to ensure that your wishes are carried out on your death. Moreover, if you have created a trust as part of your estate plan, you need to make sure that the appropriate assets have been re-titled into the name of the trust. While these may seem like simple concepts, I cannot tell you how often we hear stories of people who neglected to do the follow-up work necessary to complete their estate plan. To accomplish this in the most efficient way, we suggest that you work with your estate planning team, including your attorney, accountant, trustee, and financial and insurance advisor.
Funding a trust is a term lawyers use to describe the process of transferring title of the assets from the individual’s name to the name of the trustee. Certain items, such as a house or bank or brokerage accounts, are fairly straightforward to transfer to the trust. Others, such as cooperative apartments, can be a real pain in the neck since the coop board and its lawyers must approve the transaction and this can take months or it may not even happen in some cases.
The moral of the story…. make sure you finish the job. While you certainly deserve credit for taking the initiative and signing your estate planning documents, don’t forget to take that very important next step. Coordinate your beneficiary designations with your overall estate plan and, if you have a trust as part of your plan, make sure it is funded.
Bernard A. Krooks, Esq., is a founding partner of Littman Krooks LLP and has been honored as one of the “Best Lawyers” in America for each of the last seven years. He is past President of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and past President of the New York Chapter of NAELA. Mr. Krooks has also served as chair of the Elder Law Section of the New York State Bar Association. He has been selected as a “New York Super Lawyer” since 2006. 914-684-2100 and www.elderlawnewyork.com.