You’re among the subsection of people who likes to plan ahead, so you’ve had your estate plan in place for a while – but when is the last time you actually looked at it or made any revisions?
If it’s been three or more years, it’s probably time to make some revisions. if you’ve had any major changes in your life, such as a marriage, a divorce, significant financial actions or new developments in your relationships with your loved ones, you should do so even sooner.
The advent of a new year can be an excellent time to review your estate plan. If you make it an annual event, you’re less likely to overlook something important.
Where should you start?
It helps to approach your estate plan with a list of things that you want to check. These include:
- Beneficiary designations: Are the people you want your estate to benefit properly listed in your will or trust documents (or both)? Do your plans reflect your current intentions for your estate? Do you need to add or remove anybody due to your changing personal relationships?
- Executor and trustee designations: A will and a trust both need a fiduciary to make sure that they’re handled properly. Is the person you named to the role still the person you think is most capable of the job? Do you have backups in place in case they cannot serve?
- Financial accounts and real property: Do you have transfer-on-death and beneficiary designations on your real estate, vehicles, bank accounts and other investments? Review the designations and update them as needed, and make sure that those are not included as assets in your will to avoid confusion.
- Powers of attorney: Do you have someone designated to handle your financial affairs and medical decisions if you’re ever incapacitated prior to your death? Make sure that those designations are still what you want.
- Advance directives: If you have definite opinions about your end-of-life care, make sure that you review your advance health care directives to make sure they still reflect your feelings.
If changes to your estate plan aren’t required, you can tuck everything away again until next year (or whenever some triggering event necessitates another look). If changes do need to be made, it’s wise to seek legal guidance accordingly.