There’s an old saying that states, the only constant in life is that it’s constantly changing.
By most estimates, only 42 percent of Americans have any type of estate planning documents. Those numbers may have increased a bit because the COVID-19 pandemic may have prompted some to take action, but most Americans still remain without any sort of plan.
Pat yourself on the back if you have a plan. But ask yourself: When was the last time you actually looked at your plan? Really sat down and reviewed the documents? Admit it, it’s probably been a while.
Estate planning is not a one and done proposition. Think of your plan like it’s your car. Preventive maintenance is needed for your car to properly run. That same logic should be applied to your estate plan.
Due to the shifting nature of our lives it only makes sense that your estate plan should be updated with some frequency to ensure that it reflects your current situation and wishes.
Many people believe that having an estate plan simply means drafting a will or a trust. However, there is much more to include in your estate planning to make certain all of your assets are transferred seamlessly to your heirs upon your death. A successful estate plan also includes provisions that will allow your family members to access or control your assets should you become unable to do so yourself.
The cornerstones to an estate plan need to include:
- A will
- Health care Power of Attorney
- Financial Power of Attorney
- Beneficiary designations
- Guardianship designations (if needed)
Experts recommend revisiting your estate-planning documents at least every three to five years or after a major life change, such as:
- Marriage or divorce
- Death, illness or incapacity of a spouse or child
- If you become seriously ill and/or need long-term care
- A change in your financial situation or investments
- New property or assets, or sell property or assets
- If you start or close a business
- If you move to a different state
- When your child reaches the age of maturity
- If there is a change in tax laws
While reviewing those reasons, there are some critical questions you need to ask yourself:
- Are the people you previously appointed to administrator of your estate still the best people equipped to handle those responsibilities?
- Are the people you previously appointed in your will to undertake the responsibility of serving as guardian(s) still able to take on the responsibility of caring for your minor children?
- Are you still comfortable with the way you initially set up the distribution of your assets?
- Are the beneficiaries and/or charities named in your estate plan still the ones of your choice?
- Has your financial status and family situation changed since your estate plan was prepared?
If you say no to any of those questions, it’s time to update your estate plan.
Begin by doing a quick, relatively simple review every year. Schedule a more thorough, in-depth review with your estate attorney every five years or so. This timeline will give you an opportunity to review your finances, discuss potential changes with family members and work to determine the best course of action.
Consistently reviewing and updating your estate plan can be the difference between a smooth administrative process and an unpleasant and possibly bitter experience. Don’t let this happen to you.
Elder Advisers® is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney. We offer financial advice. We can work closely with your existing tax and legal advisors or introduce you to those we routinely work with. Nothing in this newsletter is intended as tax advice, a solicitation for insurance, or legal advice, and is merely provided as general information, and should not be relied upon for anyone’s specific or unique circumstances. Some content of this newsletter may have been developed by third party sources not affiliated with Elder Advisers®. If you would like to discuss your situation, we are delighted to help. CALL (800) 763-7930.