Creating a personalized estate plan may be the single most important thing you can do to make sure your decisions are honored if you become incapacitated or when you pass away. If you do not have an estate plan right now, or it has been years since you reviewed it, the new year may be the right time to ensure you are able to protect yourself and those you love most.
Much of estate planning deals with protecting and distributing property. A Last Will and Testament, for example, provides instructions for how a deceased person’s possessions should be distributed. Similarly, a Revocable Trust can direct the distribution of assets upon one’s death, although it can also manage the creator’s assets while he or she is alive.
There is much more to estate planning than Wills and Trusts, however, and your estate planning attorney can provide plenty of guidance. Let us share five questions to ask not only when you are considering crafting an estate plan but if you are updating an existing plan in the new year.
- Did you move to a different state? Every state has its own laws governing estate planning. Some features in an existing plan will be unaffected, while some key items may need to be revised. Do not wait to review with an estate planning attorney in your new state to ensure your plans can be fulfilled as you originally wanted them to be.
- Do any of your beneficiaries have special needs? If a special needs loved one is named in your estate plan, then it is worth exploring ways of specifically providing for them, especially after you are gone. Unfortunately, without planning that contemplates the needs of your disabled loved one, he or she may be at risk of losing valuable government benefits.
- Do you need to update a power of attorney? A power of attorney document gives someone else the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf. The document can be tailored to meet your specific needs, or provide for general decision making authority. Talk to your attorney to ensure there is a durability provision to cover the possibility of your incapacitation.
- Have you considered advanced healthcare directives? Advanced healthcare directives, including tools such as the living will, are legal documents in which a person specifies what actions are to be taken regarding his or her health if he or she is no longer able to make decisions. You may want to review any existing plans to ensure you have the right person named to make your healthcare decisions.
- Do you want to change beneficiaries? A marriage, a death in the family, a divorce, or the birth of new child or grandchild, are only a few reasons to update beneficiary designations in estate planning documents. You may also want to add a charity or a cause you care about. The new year is a great time to do so.
Do not wait to think about the estate planning you need to protect yourself and your loved ones. Although the new year can be a great time to get things in order, remember, there is never a “wrong” time to ensure you have the planning you need. Do not wait to contact us with your questions and to schedule your attendance at one of our free Trust, Estate and Asset Protection Workshops.