Are you like most American’s and have already ditched your New Year’s resolutions? One resolution that does not require running shoes or a gym membership is reviewing your estate plan. It’s time to dust off your estate planning documents and make sure your plan accurately reflects your current wishes and goals.
If you have not looked at your estate plan in a while, now is a great time to do so. Estate planning documents, such as your Last Will and Testament, revocable living trust, powers of attorney, and advanced healthcare directives are living documents. As such, they should be reviewed and updated as the laws change and as your family, state of residence, and financial situations change. Doing so will ensure that your plan still satisfies all of your final wishes and objectives.
Here are three commonly cited reasons for delaying action on updating your estate plan—and responses to each.
- “Everything my spouse and I own is titled in joint tenancy, so we really don’t need a Last Will and Testament.”
Although your home, vehicles, and bank accounts may be in joint tenancy, there are probably some items or property individually owned. Furthermore, a Will is necessary to dispose of property at the death of the survivor, or in the event both spouses die in a common incident. The proper titling and beneficiary designation of financial assets is very important as well, and should be reviewed often.
2. “We completed an estate plan with a very good estate planning attorney years ago, and our family circumstances have not changed since then.”
Even if family circumstances are the same, your assets—including those in retirement funds—have likely changed. Also, there likely have been significant changes in the tax law affecting gift and estate taxes, so additional planning options should now be reconsidered.
3. “I’m just too busy at the present time. I expect to be around for a while, so I will do it later.”
Procrastination when it comes to estate planning, may lead to state law determining the division of your property if you die without a Last Will and Testament. Procrastination when you have an out-of-date estate plan could unintentionally disinherit new family members or result in inequities that cause family troubles. An up-to-date plan brings peace of mind, honors your values, insures you have the proper people in place to help you during incapacity or death, and frees you to live fully without a nagging sense you haven’t prepared for the inevitable.
If it has been some time, or your family circumstances have changed since you last reviewed your estate plan, today would be the perfect time to make a visit to the safe deposit box at the bank, or dust off that seldom opened estate planning file in the desk drawer. Ensure the financial future of your loved ones and favorite charities, and make sure you have the most update estate plans in place when they are needed most. Contact your estate planning attorney, and cross one less resolution to worry about off your list in the coming year.