It All Goes to Betty…Or Bobby…Or Sally…Or…: Why Naming Alternates is Critical for Estate Planning.

A comprehensive estate plan requires careful consideration and planning as well as a thorough knowledge of the applicable state laws.

An estate plan requires executing a number of legal documents. Depending on your personal needs and desires, estate planning documents can include (are not limited to):

  • A Revocable Living Trust (“Trust”)
  • Last Will and Testament (“Will”)
  • Health Care Power of Attorney (aka “Designation of Health Care Surrogate”)
  • Living Will (aka “Healthcare Directive”)
  • Durable (Financial) Power of Attorney

Each one of these documents serves a particular need and will achieve a specific result for your estate planning needs.

They are each unique to developing a comprehensive estate plan.

And yet, they all have one thing in common that is critical when it comes to estate planning…

Naming Alternates

Preparing estate planning documents requires making a number of decisions.

For example, for each document used in your estate plan you will need to decide who you want to name as your beneficiary, trustee, or agent, as the case may be.

You will also need to decide who you would want to serve as an alternate for each of those roles/positions.

An alternate is a person who will either take on the duties of the originally named agent (for example, a substitute trustee) or receive the property left to the original beneficiary (for example, an alternate beneficiary).

Naming alternates in each of your estate planning documents is critical.

Why Name Alternates?

Because…things happen.

Beneficiaries may predecease you.

The people you have appointed in your documents may be:

  • Unable to serve
  • Unwilling to serve
  • Unreliable

In which case, the consequences of failing to name an alternate can be very expensive and time-consuming to fix or may completely contradict your stated desires.

Let’s look at two examples of this.

If, for example, you name a beneficiary in your Last Will and Testament (“Will”) and do not name an alternate and leave no other instructions in your Will, if that person predeceases you, Florida’s anti-lapse statute will not pass the gift on to your residual beneficiary (i.e., the person who receives the residue of your estate) but will direct the gift to the issue of the predeceased beneficiary. This may or may not be what you want. But if it is not, then you need to name an alternate.

Or, let’s say mom appointed her daughter to act for her in a Durable Power of Attorney but did not name an alternate. Mom now has Alzheimer’s so she cannot make a new Durable Power of Attorney. Unfortunately, daughter is ill and wants to delegate her power of attorney responsibilities to her sister.

Can she?


Sadly, in this situation mom may end up having a guardian appointed for her by the court.

The moral of the story is: name alternates in all of your estate planning documents. And if you have named beneficiaries (as opposed to a trust) on your financial accounts, name alternates on those as well.

Protecting Your Family is Just a Phone Call Away.

Don’t leave planning for your future and that of your loved ones to chance. All it takes is one phone call to SJF Law Group to ensure that your wishes will be followed, and your loved ones taken care of when you are gone. We expertly guide individuals through the complex probate process, and capably handle all aspects of the creation, administration, and settlement of trusts as well.  When you work with the estate planning attorneys at SJF Law Group, you get more than just an estate plan: you get peace of mind. Call us at 954-580-3690 or email us at: [email protected] today.

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