Estate planning is a vital process to ensure the smooth transfer of your assets to your loved ones after your passing. While it’s crucial to have comprehensive estate planning documents, there are certain pieces of information that should never be included. In this blog, we will highlight three important items to avoid including in your estate planning documents.
Social Security Numbers
It may seem logical to include Social Security numbers to accurately identify yourself, your family members, or loved ones in your estate planning documents. However, doing so can expose individuals to the risk of identity theft. Estate planning documents, such as wills, may become part of the public record, making sensitive information easily accessible to potential identity thieves. Instead, it’s advisable to use complete legal names, including middle names or initials, to sufficiently identify beneficiaries without compromising their security. Remember that Social Security numbers can be provided separately when designating beneficiaries for retirement or other accounts, as these forms typically remain confidential and are not part of the public record.
Listing account numbers in your estate planning documents can pose a significant risk if they become part of the public record. Unauthorized individuals could potentially use these numbers to access and exploit your accounts. To maintain the security of your accounts, it is important to keep account numbers in a secure location rather than including them in your will. Exercise caution when sharing account numbers with family members unless they are legally designated to act on your behalf, such as under a power of attorney, guardian, trustee, or similar roles that require them to act in your best interest. When selecting individuals for these roles, consider their trustworthiness and integrity, as even family members may prove untrustworthy in certain situations.
In the context of estate planning, it’s crucial to refrain from including disparaging remarks or negative sentiments about individuals in your documents. While it may be tempting to use your will as a means of expressing frustrations or seeking revenge, such actions can have legal consequences. Some courts have held estates or executors liable for testamentary libel, which involves publishing false and damaging statements about someone in a will. Even historical cases, such as Harris v. Nashville Trust Co., have demonstrated that including derogatory comments can lead to legal disputes and tarnish a person’s reputation. It’s advisable to focus on using your will to bless and provide for your loved ones, fostering harmony rather than discord.
When creating your estate planning documents, it’s essential to exclude sensitive information such as Social Security numbers and account numbers to protect against identity theft and unauthorized access to your accounts. Additionally, it’s crucial to maintain a respectful tone and refrain from including disparaging remarks in your will or other estate planning documents. Working with experienced estate planning attorneys ensures that your documents are comprehensive, protecting both your estate and the well-being of your beneficiaries. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and gain the peace of mind that comes with a well-crafted estate plan.