Now that we’re well into the New Year, there’s a good chance that many of your resolutions have come and gone (unless, of course, you are more disciplined than the average American!).
One item that should have been on your list of resolutions was to review your Estate Plan. Don’t worry if it wasn’t…most probably skipped it as well. But whether it was or wasn’t on your list, it’s time to call an attorney and review it now.
Assuming you do have an Estate Plan in place, then what needs to be checked? You may be surprised. Though it may seem like not much has changed in your life since you created the Plan, even the tiniest of changes could mean chaos.
Here is a short list of items that probably need reviewing in your Estate Plan:
- Your Will
While Probate can often determine how some of your assets are divided after your death, your Last Will and Testament tells everyone who gets your personal, tangible items…furniture, jewelry, cars, boats, etc. Your Will appoints an Executor whose job is to gather the assets, pay the lawful debts, and distribute these items according to your wishes. This will prevent a lot of squabbling between children and other family members.
The Will can also name who would be the Guardian of your minor children. This is why it is extremely important to take this document seriously.
So ask yourself if you are still in good standing with the Executor and any Guardian you might have named in your Will. Has there been a change in their lives that might prevent them from carrying out your wishes, such as moving to the other side of the world? Or, maybe they passed away. These, or other reasons, may mean you need to make a change to your Will.
- Health Care Surrogate
Your attorney probably had you appoint someone you trusted to be a Health Care Surrogate that could make important health care decisions for you in case you become incapacitated. It was probably your spouse, close friend or someone similar.
After they were chosen, you hopefully had a serious conversation with them about your wishes, and the decisions you would want them to make in different scenarios. This, of course, is why you chose someone that you completely trusted.
But what if that changed? What if, since you created your plan, you divorced your Health Care Surrogate? Or what if you and your friend whom you appointed had a falling out? Chances are, you don’t want someone you don’t trust making life and death decisions for you.
- Revocable Trust
Do you have a Revocable (or “Living”) Trust? If yes, then it may be time to review. If not, you may decide you need one.
A Revocable Trust involves three parties: a creator or grantor, the trustee(s), and beneficiaries. You (the creator/grantor) name a Trustee or Trustees to control your assets. You can name yourself, and your spouse, as Trustees, and you will have control of your assets as long as you are mentally competent, and you can change or dissolve the Trust at any time. Once you die, the Trust becomes Irrevocable.
Has anything changed since you created it? Has the status of your Trustee(s) changed? Have you had more children to add to the Trust? Have you acquired more assets? Have circumstances changed regarding your children?
You can see why it’s important to review or consider creating a Revocable Trust.
These are only a few of the changes that you may need to make in your Estate Plan. If you don’t plan a regular periodic review with a knowledgeable attorney, you may be creating chaos for your family after you’re gone.