New Year's Resolution: Review Your Estate Plan in Five Steps

Welcome to 2018!

The beginning of the year is a great time to plan for your future.  If you have already done some estate planning, it is time to review your documents.  Here are some tips:

1.        Review Any Changes in the Last Year

  • Did you have any big changes last year? Did you get married or divorced, have a kid, did your assets or income change, or was there a death in your family? 
  • Your documents need to reflect any of these changes.

2.       Review your Powers-of-Attorney

  • Are your POAs durable? Durable means that the document will still work even if you are disabled.  This would likely be in all bold or capital letters near the end of your document. 
  • Does your health care or medical POA provide HIPAA releases? HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.  This law prevents doctors or other medical professionals from disclosing your health care information without your permission. 
  • Does your legal/financial POA provide for unrestricted gifting power? Many powers-of-attorney will only allow for limited gifting powers.  This is an unfortunate restraint if asset preservation planning needs to be done at some time in the future.  If your document does not specifically mention gifting powers, your agent (also called the Attorney-in-Fact) does not have authority to make gifts of any kind.
  • Are the persons you named as your agent or agents still the appropriate people to make decisions for you if you cannot?  Are the people you appointed mentally competent, responsible, and reliable?

3.       Review Your Will

  • Are your executors (also called personal representatives) still the appropriate people to serve? You should choose responsible individuals to be your executor.  This person does not need to be one of your children or your heirs.  If you do not trust the people receiving under your will to distribute the assets fairly, pick someone else.
  • What about guardians for your minor or disabled children
  • Do you have any specific gifts that need to be added? If you have specific items that you want to go to certain persons, this should be memorialized in your document.  Post-it notes attached to personal items are not binding on the executor and could be moved.

4.       Review Beneficiary Designation Forms

  • ·Your retirement accounts, life insurance, and even some bank accounts may name a person to receive the assets upon your death.  This person is your beneficiary. 
  • Ask your financial institution for the most current version of your beneficiary designation form.  Make sure that what they have on record is still what you want.
  • You may want to consider adding a per stirpes designation, split the proceeds according to different percentage, or designate a trust.

5.       Gather Important Documents

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  • Place all your important documents in a folder together and put them in a safe place.  In addition to your legal documents, place bank account information and passwords in the folder for your loved ones to find easily if necessary. 
  • If you are putting your documents in a bank’s lock box, make sure your loved ones know that they are there. Make copies of all your documents or scan them into your computer for easy reference.