Years ago or perhaps more recently, you met with an attorney to develop an estate plan. Maybe you set up a Last Will and Testament naming a Personal Representative or Executor to manage your estate upon your death or you chose a Living Trust to address incapacity concerns and avoid probate. You left the attorney’s office feeling very accomplished by checking that task off your to-do list. You put the legal documents away and you think your work is complete. Are you really finished?
While we certainly do not want to minimize how important it is to get your estate plan established, it is essential to be aware that your estate plan is fluid and needs to be updated when major changes happen in your life. Here are examples to keep your estate plan up-to date after your final signing appointment.
- Keep your documents in a safe and secure location. It is critical to keep your documents in a place that is safe from potential water and fire damage. We usually recommend a home safe which can be found at your local hardware store and are relatively inexpensive. If you plan to keep your documents in a safe deposit box at a bank, think about how your Trustee or Personal Representative will get access to that if something happens to you.
- Communicate with your Personal Representative and/or Trustee. It is imperative that your Personal Representative, Trustee or Power of Attorney agent knows that you have a plan and where to find it if something unexpected happens to you.
- Changes in the law. Just as your situation can change at any moment so can the law. This is one of the most beneficial reasons to work with a trusted and professional estate planning and elder law attorney. They will help keep you updated when the laws change and review how those changes may or may not affect your plan.
- Know how your assets are titled. Arguably, the most important part of your estate plan is the titling of your assets. If you create a Revocable Living Trust then it is absolutely critical that your assets are titled in the trust. If you have assets that typically do not go into your trust during your lifetime, such as, an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), it is important to be aware of your beneficiary designations. In most cases, all of your non-retirement accounts should be titled in the trust. You can review account statements and the deed to your property to be sure these assets are titled properly.
- Review your plan regularly. Your plan will change as the years go. It is important to consult with your estate planning attorney when you experience changes in your finances, health or family dynamics. Even if you don’t feel there have been any significant changes in your life, we recommend having your documents reviewed at least every 3-5 years. Reviewing your estate plan will provide you peace of mind that the plan you worked hard to establish will still work for you when you need it.
If you need to create or update your estate, contact us today!