Many people don’t think of themselves as having an “estate.” However, a house, car, savings account, life insurance, and all the possessions you own are an estate. If, after years of procrastinating, you finally did the right thing and had an estate plan created with an experienced estate planning attorney, is there anything else you need to do? Yes, says Federal News Network in the article “Good at putting things off? Here’s the last checklist you’ll ever need!”
Where should you keep your estate planning documents? These documents need to be kept in a relatively secure location that is known to the people who will need access to them. An original Will might be kept at home in a fire and waterproof safe, or at your attorney’s office. Each estate planning attorney has his or her own process and can make recommendations. A Will placed in a safe deposit box may create huge headaches if the box is sealed upon death. Remember that people will need easy access to some documents, like a Living Will or a Designation of Health Care Surrogate, so they should be stored somewhere in the home where they can be grabbed in an emergency.
Who should have a copy of my estate plan? This is a personal preference. Some people give a copy to all heirs and to their personal representative (executor) and successor trustee. Others prefer to keep it private. It’s essential that the persons who will be your personal representative and successor trustee knows where your Will and Trust are and can get access to them quickly.
Update beneficiary designations. Many assets are governed not by the Will or Trust, but by the beneficiary designations on the accounts. That may include retirement accounts, annuities, IRAs, life insurance, and possibly bank accounts and investment accounts. Check them every few years, especially if there have been divorces, marriages, deaths, or new members added to the family.
Review how your assets are titled. If there are assets owned as “joint with right of survivorship,” they will not pass through probate and will become owned by the joint owner upon death. Sometimes this works well for large accounts, but sometimes it backfires. Talk with your estate planning lawyer.
How long does my estate plan last? An estate plan does not have an expiration date and must be reviewed periodically.
When should I amend my estate plan? Anytime there is a large change in the law, such as the passage of the SECURE Act at the very end of 2019, the estate plan should be reviewed. The SECURE Act has changed the rules about IRA distributions for heirs. Anyone with a sizable IRA should review their plan.
Any time there is a large event in your life your estate plan should be reviewed. Those events include a death, birth, marriage, or divorce. If the person you had named as your personal representative or successor trustee, or who had been given Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy is no longer in your life or is no longer trusted, you also want to review and change these documents.
Ready to make sure everything’s in order for your loved ones in the event you become incapacitated or die? Give Manasota Elder Law a call at 941-444-5958. We’ll help you determine whether you’re all set, or whether there are still some things that need to be done to protect what’s most important to you … your family.