Happy 2014! While we are all energized by the fresh start the New Year provides, one important item to include in your list of resolutions is to create or review your estate plan. To help, consider these 10 questions:
- Where is my original will? It is important to know who has your original will, make sure your family knows where to find your will, and confirm that it is secure.
- Are my will and/or trust up to date in terms of my family, gifts, and executor/trustee? If you have a new child or grandchild, a family member has died, or you have married or divorced, it is especially important to update your estate plan. If your executor/trustee is not still the best person for the job, name someone new.
- Have I named a guardian for my children? If your children are young, deciding who should take care of them and who should manage money for them are critical elements in your estate plan.
- Are my beneficiary designations up to date? Some property is not governed by your will and will be given to the beneficiaries you name. If you have named a beneficiary, that will trump what your will provides. So it is important to know what property will be transferred by beneficiary designation and make sure you have named the beneficiaries you want. Examples of assets that use beneficiary designations are life insurance, IRAs, 401(k)s and accounts that are “transfer on death” or “payable on death.” If you haven’t looked at your beneficiary designations in a long time, now is a good time.
- Do I have a plan for my business? Set up a plan for the management and transfer of your business. Consider the impact a careful plan will have for your heirs, employees and customers.
- Is my power of attorney old? Make sure your power of attorney is recent.
- Do my financial institutions have preferred forms of power of attorney? Your durable power of attorney may be valid, but some financial institutions have their own form of power of attorney. Ask for and use their form whenever it is appropriate, and keep it updated.
- Do I have health care advance directives, and do my doctor and my health care representative have copies? Name the person who should represent you if you cannot speak for yourself, and let your doctors know how you feel about end of life medical care.
- Do I have a plan for the care of my pets? Name the person who you would like to care for your pets, and consider providing a gift for their care.
- Is my financial and personal information organized? If not, try the Estate Planning Organizer on the “Process” page of my website.
If you live or weekend in Litchfield County, Connecticut and need help with creating or updating your estate plan, contact me for a consultation. May you achieve all of your goals for 2014!