“As you reflect on 2017, you will remember happy times and perhaps some not so joyful moments, but if any of the following events on this handy checklist happened during 2017, you should update your estate plan.”
Another year is behind us, and a shiny new one is ahead, full of promise and opportunity. After you finally take down and put away the last of the holiday decorations, add one more thing to your annual traditions. It’s a New Year! It is time to review and update your estate plan.
As you reflect on 2017, you will remember happy times and perhaps some not so joyful moments. However, if these events on this handy checklist happened during 2017, update your estate plan.
- You got married or divorced.
- You became a biological or adoptive parent or grandparent.
- Your spouse became extremely ill or disabled.
- You bought a house, other real estate or other expensive asset.
- Any member of your family suffered illness, disability or death.
- You or your spouse got a sizeable inheritance or gift.
- Your child or grandchild reached the age of majority.
- You took on significant debt or other liability.
- The person whom you named as the guardian for your children or your executor or trustee is no longer available, appropriate or willing to serve.
- You got a new job or promotion.
- You opened or closed a business.
- You want to set up educational funding for your child or grandchild.
- Your financial goals or priorities have changed.
- You have more or fewer dependents.
- The value of your assets has increased or decreased significantly.
- You have changed your life insurance or long-term care insurance.
- The state or federal laws changed so it affects your taxes or investments.
Some people diligently review their estate plan several times a year at regular intervals. For the rest of us, several years can go by without our giving the papers a glance or a thought. The danger of not keeping your estate plan up-to-date, is that the people you want to benefit may get left out in the cold, if your documents are no longer current.
The Basic Documents You Need in Your Estate Plan
Talk with your legal advisor about which of these documents will serve your estate needs. Everyone’s situation is unique, so do not use a cookie cutter approach.
- A will and a trust. The will tells people what you want to be done with your assets after you die. A revocable living trust can help you save on estate taxes. It allows you to keep more money in your estate for your heirs, rather than paying it to Uncle Sam. There are many different trusts, so talk with an estate planning expert to decide which one is best for you. Most trusts can manage your assets for you, if you become disabled.
- A power of attorney for health care decisions. You can select someone to medically decide for you, if you cannot do so because of illness or injury. As long as you are conscious and able to make and express your decisions, you retain control.
- A durable power of attorney will set up someone to handle your financial matters, if you become incapacitated. As long as you are competent to act for yourself, you retain control. You can revoke this document at any time, if you have legal capacity.
You may also want to draft letters to your family and heirs giving them details on your wishes, and passing on some words of wisdom and affection. This article discusses the general law, and your state may have different laws. Talk with an estate planning lawyer in your area.
MarketWatch. “Review your estate plan against this 14-point checklist.” (accessed January 9, 2018) https://www.marketwatch.com/story/review-your-estate-plan-against-this-14-point-checklist-2015-07-20
Fidelity. “Reviewing and Updating Your Estate Plan.” (accessed January 9, 2018) https://www.fidelity.com/growing-managing-wealth/estate-planning/update-estate-plan