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Most people shy away from using the traditional Will in estate planning in an effort to avoid probate. Some people are also reluctant to use a Revocable Trust for their estate plan because they prefer to handle things without the assistance of an attorney. As a result, many people turn to banks and financial institutions that offer alternative tools that transfer assets at death without probate.

When working with banks and financial institutions it can be a challenge to juggle the different options and the documents that you can find through all of these outlets. There is no advisor involved and each document is designed to target only one particular account or asset, so the burden falls upon you to keep it all straight and ensure that your estate plan stays on track.

Fortunately, there is a quick and easy test for using alternate estate planning tools like payable on death designations (“P.O.D.”), transfer on death designations (“T.O.D.”) and beneficiary designations. If the advisor, bank employee or other person helping you with paperwork for any of these alternative estate planning tools has not read your Will, Revocable Trust or other estate planning documents, then it should raise a red flag.

The instructions laid out in a Will or a Revocable Trust are created after carefully weighing and balancing various goals and objectives for the family. It is impossible for a bank employee or financial advisor to write up any P.O.D. or T.O.D. designation correctly without knowing about all of the choices and arrangements that you set up in the Will or Revocable Trust. Moreover, if you already have a Revocable Trust in place to avoid probate, it would be very important for the bank employees or financial advisors to know that you have this taken care of before they start to work solving a problem that you don’t really have.

If you want to look into the alternative estate planning tools that financial institutions provide, be sure that whoever is filing out this paperwork knows what you already have in place and reads those existing documents. If they have not read your estate planning documents or will not look them over, take a step back and be sure that your advisors or the people that you are working with are all on the same page.



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