Titling of property is just as important as your Will or Trust

If you think Estate Planning is simply the creation of a Will or Trust, you are missing a big portion of information, and could potentially have assets that do not flow according to the plan you have set up in your Will or Trust. How you title your real and personal property and who you name as your beneficiaries is just as important as your Will or Trust.

Some property, based on how it is titled or who is the named beneficiary, will flow outside your Will or Trust. For example, if you name a beneficiary to your life insurance policy or on your retirement account, that money flows to the named beneficiary, not in accordance with your Will or Trust (unless you have named your Estate or Trust as the beneficiary). Or if you name another individual as payable on death (POD) designee or transfer on death (TOD) designee on your investment account or your bank account, that account flows automatically to the named designee, not in accordance with your Will or Trust (unless you have named your Estate or Trust as the beneficiary).

Also, jointly-owned real estate generally flows to the surviving joint owner, not according to your Will or Trust. However, just because two people own one piece of real estate, does not mean the property will flow automatically to the survivor. In South Dakota, language needs to be included in the deed conveying that real estate to both individuals as “joint tenants with rights of survivorship.”

Therefore, it is not only important to talk with your estate planning attorney about your Will or Trust, but you should also be discussing the titling of your property and the beneficiaries you have named on your life insurance and retirement accounts and the POD and TOD designees you have named on your investment accounts or bank accounts. If you don’t, you run the risk of creating a legacy that may never be fulfilled.

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