In 2018, we’ll periodically share “Pearls of Wisdom” on a variety of frequently-encountered planning situations. This month, we focus on ensuring that proper estate planning documents are in place.
An important aspect of a well-constructed financial plan is making sure that legal affairs are in order. All too often, when we ask clients about their estate plan, we find out that many have nothing in place or have not looked at their documents in years. Here’s why this matter so essential, and why you should make “review my estate plan” one of this year’s resolutions…
Have Your Circumstances Changed?
If you’ve had significant life events since the last time you drafted your will, it may be time for an update. A change in marital status, birth or aging of children, or a change of state residence could be reasons to revise what you’d previously put in place.
Are Beneficiaries Current?
Some assets are passed by beneficiary designation, rather than according to instructions in your will, so outdated beneficiaries can derail an estate plan. In order to ensure that assets are inherited by the intended individual(s), review who you’ve named on insurance policies, annuities and retirement accounts, and update as needed.
Who is Responsible for What?
Do you know who you’ve named to handle your affairs in case of disability (Power of Attorney) or death (Executor)? Both of these roles are big responsibilities, and it’s important to name someone who understands your situation and is well-suited for the task.
Do You Understand Your Documents?
They might have made perfect sense at the time, when they were first drafted and explained by the attorney. After some years have passed, though, it’s not unusual for us to learn that folks have little recollection of the discussion or decisions made when their estate documents were originally completed. It’s a good idea to periodically review your estate plan to gain an understanding of how it works, what it takes to maintain it, and how it benefits you and your beneficiaries.
To jump-start your resolution, we welcome you to bring in your current estate planning documents (wills, trusts, power of attorney) when you schedule your next financial review. Your planner will go over the important points with you, check to see that your instructions coordinate with your investments to meet your goals, and refer you to a legal professional for further guidance if needed.