While clients often focus on the market, goals and portfolio performance, it never hurts to make sure estate planning items are correct, particularly heading into the new year.
Your estate plan has a big impact on your finances and should be considered as important as your investment portfolio, says Wealth Management in the recent article “Eight Simple Estate Planning Review Items for 2019.”
Here are the eight items that need your attention:
Beneficiary designations. When was the last time you checked these? Beneficiary designations are usually looked at when an account is opened, and often that’s the last time people see them. Look at beneficiary designations for tangible assets, like homes, cars or collectibles. Check legal documents, including bank accounts and insurance policies.
Digital asset designations. This is a relatively new area, but very important. Even if you don’t own any cryptocurrency, chances are good you have assets like photos, reward points, websites and more. Each social media platform has a different policy for how accounts are treated on the death of the owner. You’ll need an inventory and may want to use an online service for managing your digital assets after you die.
Trust funding. This is where many estate plans fall apart. Funding trusts often requires changing titles on bank accounts, homes and other assets into the name of the trust. Major purchases, like a boat or second home, also need to have their titling corrected, so they correspond to trusts.
Documents for adult children. When your children turn 18, they are legally adults and you do not have the legal right to get information or make decisions on their behalf. If you don’t have HIPAA releases, Power of Attorney, and other documents, you may find yourself unable to help in an emergency.
Keep up with life changes. Review your estate plan with an eye to changes in your life: births, deaths, marriages, divorces, big purchases, etc. If you haven’t met with your estate planning attorney or had a phone conversation in a few years, make an appointment now for a review.
Secure photos and memories. How many times have we watched dramatic images of fires, floods, and earthquakes in 2019? Videos, photos, family heirlooms, and artifacts and other irreplaceable items should be stored in some digital format, or in the cloud. If the family includes artists, take photos of paintings or sculptures so at least you have an image of the item should it be destroyed.
Discuss wishes with loved ones. One of the biggest challenges after someone passes, is knowing what they wanted to be done with personal possessions. If you have every Beatles album, unopened, what do you want to happen to your collection? Make inventories and then tell your family what you’d like to have happen with your possessions. You can create a “Legacy Letter” and put it down on paper. It’s not legally binding, but it will give your family some direction.
Prepare for incapacity. This is not everyone’s favorite task, but necessary. If you were conscious but not able to speak, what information would your family need? Work with your estate planning attorney to create the necessary legal documents, including medical directives, and tell your family members where they are located. Some families keep certain documents (like a Do Not Resuscitate or lists of medications) on the refrigerator, so that Emergency Responders can gain access to important medical information quickly in an emergency.
Yes, it’s a good-sized list of to-dos’, and you won’t get it all done in January. However, start in January 2020, so you and your loved ones enjoy the protection you need.
Reference: Wealth Management (Dec. 12, 2018) “Eight Simple Estate Planning Review Items for 2019”
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