“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.”
So, 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, you should add one more thing to your annual traditions. It’s a New Year! 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, but if any of the following events on this handy checklist happened during 2017, you should 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 in a way that affects your taxes or investments.
Some people diligently review their estate plan multiple 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your estate plan up-to-date is that the people you want to benefit may get left out in the cold if your documents are no longer current.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
You should 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, thereby keeping more money in your estate for your heirs rather than paying it to Uncle Sam. There are many different types of 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 make your medical decisions for you if you are unable to 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. If you need to update your estate plan, give us a call at 256 237-3339.
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