Start 2014 Out Right By Getting Your Estate Plan in Order
Recently, a friend and client of mine asked me to help her update her will. My friend realized that her will might need a little updating, but she was shocked when she actually retrieved her will from her safe deposit box to see just how much in her life had changed since she executed her will. In my friend’s case she had been divorced and remarried, and instead of having minor children, her children were now grown with children of their own. While my friend was shocked (and a little embarrassed) I reassured her that no time is better than the present to finally update her will.
Organize & Update Your Estate Plan in the New Year
The start of a new year is an excellent time to think about your estate planning. Whether that means a simple review of your existing will or trust to ensure that it still works for your current life situation; or that means finally taking the step to get a will or trust in place, consider the start of a new year a perfect opportunity. Remember estate planning is not only about how your assets are distributed, it also means appointing the individual(s) responsible for carrying out your wishes for your family and health care decisions.
Individuals whom have recently experienced major life changes such as a divorce, or the death of a spouse, are especially susceptible without a plan that reflects their current life situation. In the case of my friend, while she did have a will, it was completely irrelevant to her current situation. Moreover, women without any kind of estate plan in place leave it completely up to state law to dictate matters such as how their assets will be distributed, who will care for their children, or who will manage funds for their children or grandchildren.
If You Don’t Already Have an Estate Plan, Take the Opportunity in the New Year to Finally Get a Plan in Place
Essentially, estate planning enables you to be in control of what happens to your assets upon your death or incapacity. Estate planning is also the process by which you appoint who you want to be responsible for carrying out your wishes for your assets, family and heath care decisions. At a minimum, your estate plan should include the following elements:
A Will and/or Revocable Living Trust
These are formal documents that describe how and when to divide and distribute your assets upon your death. Whether you need a simple will, or a more complex, revocable living trust, depends on your specific situation. Discuss your situation with an estate planning attorney to determine which makes sense for you and your family.
Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Decisions
A durable power of attorney for finances allows you to appoint another individual to make financial decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make these decisions yourself due to incapacity or disability.
Durable Power of Attorney for Heath Care Decisions
A durable power of attorney for healthcare allows you to appoint another individual to make medical decisions on your behalf including decisions regarding medical consents and life support issues in the event you are unable to make these decisions yourself.
Beneficiary and Payable on Death Designations
If you list an individual as a beneficiary of a financial asset, that individual becomes the legal owner, immediately, upon your death without the need for probate.
If You Already Have an Estate Plan, Take the Opportunity to Review Your Existing Plan to Ensure it is Still Relevant to Your Life
As busy individuals today, we all know that life changes fast. Your will may have been drafted during a prior marriage, or when your now grown children were still minors. After any major life change, such as a divorce, death, or major change in assets, it is important to review your plan and appropriate changes.
When Should You Update Your Estate Plan?
While there are many life circumstances that warrant a change in your estate plan, below is a checklist of some of the life changes that may require an update to your plan:
- After a divorce or marriage
- After the birth or adoption of a new child or grandchild
- When your children or grandchildren reach the age of 18
- Death or illness of an individual named as personal representative, trustee, beneficiary or guardian
- A change in relationship with an individual, organization or other beneficiary named in will
- A sale or purchase of a major asset, such as a new home, a new business, or sale of business or home
- You move, especially if you move out of state
- There is a change in the state or federal tax law
- You experience a significant increase or decrease in the value of your assets, such as receiving an inheritance
Don’t forget to review & update Beneficiary designations
The last thing you want your family to have to deal with is removing a former spouse or other unintended beneficiary after you are gone. Work with your financial planner, or check with your specific financial institution on how to make and update beneficiary changes to reflect changes in your life.
No Time is Better than the Present to Review, Update or Create Your Estate Plan
We all know that it can be difficult to keep up with every little change in life. However, when a major life change occurs, it can sometimes be too overwhelming to think about your estate plan. Make it a resolution to consider your estate plan in the New Year to ensure that it works for your life. By taking the time to review your existing estate plan, or to finally execute a will or trust, you take control of what happens to your assets upon your death or incapacity. Review the checklist above and discuss any life changes with estate planning attorney to ensure that your estate plan reflects your current situation and ensures that you and your family are protected and prepared.
If you have additional estate planning questions contact Kelly O’Brien, Measure, Sampsel, Sullivan & O’Brien, P.C. at (406) 752-6373(406) 752-6373/ www.measurelaw.com