Are You Ready for the Next Decade?
As we enter a new year — and a new decade — there are undoubtedly many things on your mind. Many people are setting goals and planning for the year ahead. As you think about what you want to get out of 2020, it’s important to consider your estate plan.
As we’ve touched on in the past, the beginning of the year is a great time to review your estate plan. It’s also a great time to set a few “estate planning resolutions,” like, for instance, resolving to make sure all your beneficiaries are up-to-date and accurate. Over the past decade or year, there is a good chance that many things have changed in your life, like changes within your family, changes to your health or the health of a loved one, or changes to your financial situation. We want to make sure your estate plan is updated to reflect any and all changes that have occurred so that your plan can go to work when you need it to work — without any hitches.
When it comes to family, for instance, you want to ask yourself several important questions as they relate to your plan.
Has anyone named in my will passed away or become incapacitated?
Have there been any births? Marriages? Separations? Divorces?
Have family dynamics shifted (one cousin is no longer engaged with your part of the family, for example)?
There are also questions you need to ask related to your health.
Has my health declined?
Have I received any significant health diagnoses since the last time my estate plan was updated?
Is the person I’ve designated to handle my financial and medical wishes still able to do so?
On that last point, it’s always important to consider every person you have named in your estate plan, trusts, and will. If you’ve designated someone as power of attorney or personal representative of your estate, it’s crucial to regularly vet the people you have named: Are they still capable of the task you’ve requested? If not, your estate plan needs to be updated to reflect that.
Additionally, if you or a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it’s important to talk about the diagnosis and your estate plan with your family as soon as possible and before the symptoms of the progressive brain disorder set in. If the disease sets in and a plan is not in place or not updated, it can create further complications for your heirs as they try to determine what to do next.
On the financial side of things, here are a few things to consider:
Have you acquired any new assets since the last time your plan was updated? This includes real estate, investments, money, and new bank or other financial accounts.
When was the last time you had a financial review? This review is designed to make sure your beneficiary designations are consistent with your plan.
If you have a trust that designates money to your three children, for example, but your beneficiary designations say otherwise, you could be leaving your three children with a legal headache getting it sorted out. Or, if you open up a new CD or bank account and don’t add a beneficiary to the account, your loved ones could end up in probate court.
These questions are just a few examples of what we cover when we review estate plans with clients. As you start the New Year, we encourage you and your family to take a close look at your plan to make sure all the pieces are in the right place.
In the meantime, we wish you a happy New Year! We hope everyone is off to a great start and we wish you the best in health and success in the coming year.