Before You Pack

suitcaseMy family is going on vacation the end of June. It’s a trip we’ve been planning for more than six months, and we’re looking forward to all the adventures that lie ahead.

But something has been weighing on me.

It’s been almost five years since I signed my Will. My kids are older. There are provisions in my Will that I’ve been meaning to change, and the fact that we will be in a foreign country for two weeks this year is bringing that to the forefront of my mind.

Is there something about your estate plan (or lack thereof) that is nagging you too? If so, it may be time make some changes.

Estate planning is not a once and done event. Changes can occur in tax, property, probate or other laws which could impact your estate plan. Additionally, changes can occur in your own family, or in your finances, which could impact your estate plan. That’s why it’s a good idea to review your plan periodically to make sure it is still accomplishing your goals.

Before you pack this summer, review the following:

Your Will

Your Will dictates how and to whom your property will be distributed after you die. Does your current Will still reflect your wishes? Are the people you’ve nominated as fiduciaries still the people you want in control after you die? Is your Will benefiting the most important people in your life right now? Would you prefer that a distribution to a beneficiary be left in trust instead of outright? Are there complexities in your Will that can be eliminated?

Your Beneficiary Designations

Certain assets, such as life insurance policies and retirement plans, are controlled by beneficiary designations rather than the terms of your Will. Have you coordinated your beneficiary designations with your Will? For example, if you’ve specified in your Will that your assets will be left in trust to your children, have you identified the trustee of your trust as the beneficiary of your insurance policy? It’s always a good idea to double-check.

Your Appointment of Guardian

An appointment of guardian allows you to choose who will care for your children after you die. Is the person you’ve appointed as guardian still willing and able to serve in that role? If so, is that the person you still think is best suited to care for your children? I worked with some clients not too long ago who selected a family member as their children’s guardian; however, after spending a summer traveling with that family member, they had a change of heart. Has something similar happened in your life?

Your Health Care Directives

If you’re hospitalized and incapacitated, who would you want to make medical decisions for you? Is the person you’ve identified in your power of attorney still the person you think will best carry out your wishes?

Your Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney will allow your appointed agent to handle your financial affairs if you’re incapacitated; however, because it gives very broad powers over your property, an untrustworthy person serving as your agent could wreak havoc on your finances. I received a call not too long ago from people who had given power of attorney to someone who was later accused of embezzlement. Is the agent you’ve appointed still the person you trust with your finances?

Your estate planning documents should change as your life does; otherwise they can become a set of outdated documents that do not accomplish your estate planning goals or protect those most important to you.

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