As the end of the year approaches, as estate planners, we encourage our clients to review their documents to decide if they have any changes that need to be made. It is important to review your documents and ensure that they are still relevant for the coming year. An end-of-the-year estate planning checklist can help you prepare and confirm that your estate plan is in order and that your wishes are followed in case of incapacitation or death. Consider some of the following documents to review as the year comes to an end.
Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament provides a road map as to who you would like to inherit your assets. A year is a long time, and things may have changed, causing you to alter your wishes. Reviewing your Will can ensure it accurately reflects your current wishes. You’ll also want to double-check that your assets list reflects your current reality. This can include physical assets, like real estate and possessions, and bank and investment options.
Consider a Revocable Living Trust
Additional planning that you may want to consider is creating a revocable living trust (RLT). An RLT is an agreement that appoints a trustee to manage and administer the grantors your assets upon incapacitation. Your trustee can be a family member, a friend, a bank, or a trust company. Your assets are then retitled into the trust. This can include bank accounts, investments, and real estate. This provides your heirs with a quick and private distribution of your assets after you pass away and is also used to safeguard financial privacy and manage assets if you become incapacitated. This process can help in avoiding probate court, because once your assets belong to the trust, they do not have to go through the probate process upon your death. With a revocable living trust, you retain control of the assets while you are alive, even though they no longer belong to you. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss the steps and assist in creating a revocable trust.
Beneficiaries and Executors
Ensure your current named beneficiaries are in order. Beneficiaries can be changed, so if you notice something you would like altered, contact your estate planning attorney to make any updates to your estate plan. You should also confirm that your chosen executor is still willing to serve, the executor can be an accountant, lawyer, or family member. The executor is responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased and making sure all of the loose ends of the deceased’s financial life are tied up.
Power of Attorney (POA)
A power of attorney (POA) refers to the authority you give someone else to make legal, financial, or medical decisions on your behalf. Yourself (the principal), gives authority to a trusted individual (your agent). Your agent will only take effect when you are considered unable to no longer do so. But you can also grant someone a POA for a specific purpose, such as purchasing a vehicle for you. The essential function of a durable power of attorney (DPOA) is to legally designate a representative to handle your financial affairs, if, for whatever reason, you become incapacitated. Having a DPOA drafted and executed properly is one of the central documents in estate planning.
In addition, consider putting a medical power of attorney in place. A medical power of attorney is often referred to as a “Health Care Proxy”. Your healthcare proxy will have access to your medical records. They may also authorize tests and treatment, decide where you will receive care, which physicians will provide care, and whether to accept, withdraw, or decline treatment.
Review and update your powers of attorney at the end of the year. Confirm that your chosen agent is still willing and able to act on your behalf and contact an estate planning attorney to make any changes to your plan.
Create or update a comprehensive list of your assets, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, and personal property. This is something that should be updated yearly, to ensure that if you were to become incapacitated or pass away, your Trustee or agent would know what your assets are and how to access them.
Life changes, so should your estate plan. Creating your estate planning is a dynamic process, and it’s crucial to review and update your plan periodically, especially when major life events occur, such as marriages, divorces, births, or deaths in the family. The end of the year is a great time to revisit your estate plan. Additionally, consult with legal and financial professionals to ensure your estate plan aligns with current laws and regulations. Contact us today at (413) 527 0517 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.