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21st century estate planning

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Monday, April 30, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

Is your estate plan ready for the 21st century? Does it include care for your pet, a plan for parents you're helping to support and a recipient for your digital assets -- like the small business you operate online?

Smart retirement planning should include a road map for what happens when you leave this earth. Tina Di Vito, director of retirement strategies of BMO Financial Group, part of Bank of Montreal, offers these thoughts on estate planning provisions that earlier generations mostly didn't consider:

Don't leave older family members in lurch. In this day and age, it's not at all unusual for the older generation to outlive their aging sons and daughters. You hope it won't be so, but it could happen, so Di Vito advises talking to your children and your siblings about how best to include your parents as beneficiaries in your estate plan, so your untimely death doesn't put them at risk.

Make plans for Fido and Meowzers. Oprah Winfrey recently earmarked $30 million from her estate to take care of her dogs. You don't have to be that generous, but leaving money to ensure someone will feed and care for your pets makes it more likely they won't go directly to the pound.

Think about all those passwords. If you have money in an online savings account or you have built up a solid reputation selling used golf balls on eBay or you have a big credit from Amazon, then you have digital assets. Make sure your heirs know how to access these accounts. And if you can leave behind a description of their value, that's even better.

Dying seems like it's a lot more complicated than it used to be.

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