Happy New Year! It’s day 2 of the new decade and it is a great time to review or move forward with your estate planning. Estate planning is a comprehensive plan designed to take care of your loved ones, not just a single document. As our clients know, it is important to regularly review all aspects of your plan, your finances, and your family’s needs. Whether or not you have a plan with us, take some time this month to review the below categories and then schedule a time to come in and either establish your estate plan or go over plan updates with our team!
Beneficiary Designations: For assets such as life insurance and retirement accounts, the beneficiary designation form is crucial. If these documents are not filled out properly, the wrong or unintended person could end up with your asset, completely unraveling your estate plan. As a result, it is a good idea to review these documents periodically to make sure that the correct beneficiary is named. Life can change quickly, and sometimes changing beneficiary designations is the last thing on anyone’s mind.
Guardianships or Temporary Guardianships: If you were to pass away tomorrow, you would want to ensure that you have named a guardian for your minor children. If you’re a new parent and haven’t named a guardian yet, it is wise to do so. Or, if you haven’t reviewed your guardianships in a while, it is wise to look them over and ensure the person named is still a good option. In Massachusetts, a parent or legal guardian also has the ability to appoint a temporary guardian/agent for a minor child for up to 60 days. This appointment allows the temporary guardian to make decisions on behalf of the minor as if he or she were the child’s parent, without court involvement or approval. If you are planning a big trip away this year or know you might have extended business travel, you might consider this document if your child is going to be staying with a relative or close friend.
Ensuring proper ownership (“title”) on property: As our clients know, you must ensure that the assets you intend for you trust to own have either been retitled in the trust’s name or will transfer to the trust automatically at your death. Since your assets change, it is wise to regularly check your beneficiary designations, account statements, and any other documents associated with your assets. If your assets are out of alignment with your trust, make sure you notify our office so we can realign them with your estate plan and ensure those assets avoid probate, which is a time consuming and expensive process. If you are unsure, we encourage you to come in and review the ownership of your property with our team. Being on our ongoing client care program means you never pay for these review meetings, so take advantage – we are happy to help!
Your Appointed Decision-Makers: Estate planning involves a lot of moving parts and people. You have probably named a Successor Trustee in your trust, an Attorney-in-Fact (“agent”) under your Financial Power of Attorney, and a Patient Advocate (“proxy” or “healthcare agent”) under your Health Care Proxy. We encourage annual reviews of your estate plan, and we want to remind you to review your decisions and make sure that these individuals are still able to act on your behalf if you need them to. Just like your life goes through changes, these individuals may have a change in circumstances that makes them less able or advantageous to serve in these important roles.
Important Information for Trusted Decision Makers: While your estate planning documents appoint individuals to act on your behalf, they do not always contain all of the necessary information to handle your affairs, manage your finances, or make decisions on your behalf according to your wishes. As you review your estate planning documents, make sure you schedule a Family Care MeetingTM with our office (also included in our ongoing client care program, so again take advantage!). We will help you facilitate a meeting with your helpers, family, and trusted advisors to go over your wishes and the parts of your estate plan you deem necessary for them to learn about. It is also a good idea to compile a “road map” for your team to aid them in acting on your behalf and save them the time and hassle of looking. Some of the information you may want to consider including is:
- Your social security number
- Your doctor’s names and contact information
- Your pertinent medical information, including care providers and medications
- Your professionals’ (accountant, financial advisor, life insurance agent, etc.) names and contact information
- Bank account numbers
- Where to find your important documents
- Contact information, dates of birth, and social security numbers for your children
- Information regarding your pets
- And anything else that could be helpful
By compiling this information and making it accessible to your trusted decision-makers, you can help them be better prepared to carry out their roles.
As we mentioned in the beginning, the next thing on your to do list for 2020 is to schedule a meeting with our team! Life changes quickly and the beginning of a new year is a great time to review your estate plan to make sure it reflects any changes that occurred in your personal life. If there have been any marriages, divorces, deaths, births, etc. in your family, this can impact your estate plan, and it is crucial that your plan reflects these changes so it remains consistent with your wishes.
Make sure you register for our client workshop next week to be updated on estate tax law as well!
If you haven’t established your estate plan yet, make 2020 the year you do so! Don’t let another decade pass you by without one.
Our team at Family Estate Planning Law Group understands your desire to protect your family and we are here to offer peace of mind to you and your family while you are alive and to your loved ones after you have passed. Give us a call so we can help you make sure that everything will still work as intended to achieve your goals. If you do not currently have an estate plan, we are here to build a relationship with you as we guide you in crafting a plan that will protect you and your loved ones.