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Think Your Estate Plan is Done? Think Again!

You have reviewed multiple drafts of your Will, Trust, Living Will and Financial Power of Attorney, attended multiple meetings with your attorney, discussed the final distribution of your assets, selected your Executor and Trustee and finally executed your estate planning documents. So, you must be done, right?

Putting your estate plan in place is a big first step in the process. However, it is only the first step for many people, according to this article “So You Think You’re Done with Your Estate Plan…” from the National Law Review. Here’s an excellent checklist of items that are commonly overlooked and that can undo all your good efforts.

Beneficiary Designations. These assets generally do not pass through the will, so the beneficiary named receives the asset, whether it’s proceeds from a life insurance policy or the entire contents of your investment accounts. These forms must be prepared and filed with the account custodian or the insurance company, so beneficiaries are properly identified. If you have not looked at these designations for more than a few years, it’s time to look at them again to make sure the ones you originally selected are still the ones you wish to receive your assets.

Trust Funding and Form of Ownership of Assets. You can easily wreck your entire plan by failing to fund trusts or retitle assets. If you’ve executed a Revocable Trust with probate avoidance in mind, for instance, and then fail to fund the trust, your beneficiaries will need to probate your assets. Assets owned jointly with rights of survivorship will not pass according to your will. If your estate plan was done with taxes in mind, you could put the entire plan at risk.

Talking with Family and Trusted Professionals. Having a plan no one in the family knows about, can lead to an estate disaster. Speak with family members, so they know you have an estate plan and who they should be in touch with when the time comes. Your accountant and/or financial advisor should be brought into the discussion.

Accessibility of Estate Plan and Related Information. If your documents are locked up in a safe deposit box or an encrypted file or secure portal, no one will be able to access them. Your estate planning attorney will be able to advise you, as to the best way to ensure that paper and electronic documents are available to family and fiduciaries when needed. The same holds true for burial and health care instructions. Prepare a list with the contact information of your estate planning attorney, basic information about your assets and other information that will be needed by family and fiduciaries.

Keeping Up with Change. Tax laws change and lives change. If you have been divorced, had a serious illness, or any major change to your assets, you’ll need to speak with your estate planning attorney to see if any of those changes need to be incorporated into your estate plan.

Reference: National Law Review (Oct. 18, 2018) “So You Think You’re Done with Your Estate Plan…”

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