As the New Year Approaches, Take Time to Re-Examine Your Estate Plan

We’re rapidly approaching 2015 and now is the time that many people take a step back to take inventory of big events in 2014 and plan for the new year. If you have an estate plan, it’s a good rule of thumb to re-examine your plan at least once a year (do NOT put together a plan and throw it into a lockbox for all eternity- it simply will not work). If you do not have an estate plan, you should make it a goal for 2015. Remember, estate planning is not just for you, it is also about making a smooth transition for your loved ones in the event of your disability or death.

Here are some important areas to review, or incorporate, into your estate plan:

1. Your preferred medical care.

Medical care is an important part of a well-thought-out estate plan. You need to define how your medical needs will be addressed in various circumstances, including incapacitation. Make sure you have documents providing how important medical decisions will be made and who will be empowered to make those decision in case you’re out of commission. It is important to have a healthcare agent named, and leave that agent with as much instruction as possible as to what your wishes are. There are various legal documents to help accomplish these goals. In addition, a good conversation with your named agent goes a long way. Finally, make sure your loved ones know you have these documents and where to find them. We provide all of our clients with a great service called DocuBank, which provides 24/7 immediate access to healthcare directives and emergency medical information.

2. Asset management.

The financial aspect of your medical care should also be addressed. Obviously, medical treatment is not cheap and, in many cases, is exorbitantly expensive at the end of someone’s life. Do not burden your loved ones with a significant medical bill. Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage, or financial resources, to cover the medical care you want at the end of your life. Along with this, you want to ensure your loved ones have easy access to these funds in the event of your disability.

There’s a good chance you’re managing your investments and other assets, or at least have a financial advisor whom you speak to on a regular basis. You want to ensure someone is easily able to step into your shoes and manage these assets in the event you are unable to. Also, it is important someone has an up to date list of all of your assets and accounts. Your loved ones will already be going through a difficult time, and making them play Sherlock Holmes does not make it any easier. A good estate plan can provide the tools needed to accomplish these goals.

3. Beneficiary forms.

It is important to realize there are a number of assets that are not governed by your will or other estate planning documents you may have. For example, many people have IRAs, annuities, employer retirement plans, and life insurance. These assets are generally inherited by whoever is named on the beneficiary designation forms. These forms may have been completed years ago and many people’s family situations change. Revisit the forms, and make sure you have beneficiaries listed and they are the beneficiaries you want. Also, make sure the beneficiaries fit with your estate plan. For example, many people will set up various types of trusts and neglect to change or discuss their beneficiary designations options accordingly.

You might have other issues to address, like changes in your financial or family situation, but the issues listed above are some of the most common estate planning issues you should reexamine. At InSight Law, we have a formal maintenance plan that keeps our client’s estate planning documents and asset information up to date. Please feel free to contact our firm to learn more about our maintenance plan process, and how we can help you create an estate plan that works.