Ok, so you have taken the step of getting your estate plan in order. Congratulations! Now what? Your estate plan works best when it is maintained and kept current. Any time you have a life changing event, such as a birth, death, marriage, or winning the lotto, look at your estate plan to make sure it is still up for its task. Even if you don’t have a big event, it’s smart to take look every few years to make sure it still reflects your wishes.

  1. Review and Reconsider Your “Key People”
    During your estate planning process, you were able to pick the people who will take key positions in your estate plan. Every year or so, review those to make sure that those people are still the right people for the role you have put them in. Are they able to fulfill the responsibilities? Do they want to?
  2. Review Your Beneficiary Designations
    Beneficiary designations are a critical piece of any estate plan. They direct assets at your death, so make sure they are directing those assets where you want them to go. We often set up beneficiary designations and then never think about them again – but that can be a mistake. Every so often, check your designations and confirm that that is still the direction you want those assets to go at your death. Have you opened a new account since the last time you checked? Remember, assets that have a beneficiary designation are not controlled at death by your trust or will plan so make sure they are right!
  3. Review Your Financial Accounts and Real Estate
    Are your assets titled properly? If they are owned jointly, is the co-owner still alive? If you have a trust, is the ownership in the name of the trust? Remember, a trustee can only control assets that are in the trust. Has the trustee changed? If so, do you need to update your real estate deed or statement of authority?
  4. Review Your Personal Property Memorandum
    Are there any personal property items you have not included on your personal property memorandum that you want to go to someone in particular? If so, then add it! Do you have a new animal and want to make sure he or she goes to a specific person? Add it! Do you want to give money to someone in addition to the animal for its care? Call your estate planning attorney to arrange that.
  5. Update Your Financial Documents
    Keep information in a safe place to let your key people know about your financial accounts: investment, retirement, insurance, life insurance, employer contacts, bank, and so on. When was the last time you updated those? Have you opened accounts since then? Closed them? Added an auto pay to your credit card? Do you have a safe deposit box? Safe at home? Do you have a burial plot? Who do they contact? You have to let your key person know these things, as well as the safe combination or key location. Also, list the names of your professionals, such as your CPA or Attorney.
  6. Update Financial Powers of Attorney
    A Financial Power of Attorney is generally valid unless it limited by a date certain or it has been revoked. However, many financial institutions resist honoring a Financial Power of Attorney document for any number of reasons. One of the reasons we hear is that the document is “stale” or “too old”. Wrong or not, this can cause stress and hassle for your agent when he or she attempts to use the POA. Therefore, update your Financial Power of Attorney even if it is naming the same person you have already named. I agree that it shouldn’t be necessary, but I also want your agent to have the best chance of successfully using your Financial Power of Attorney when needed with as little pushback as possible. Also, check with each third party (bank, investment company, etc.) every two years to see if it has it’s own financial power of attorney form that you need to sign and file with it.
  7. Update Your Burial and Disposition Directions if Necessary
    Is your death planning the same? Do you want to change from a memorial to a party with loud music? Consider what you want, make your wishes known, and update it in writing.
  8. Consider Your Online Accounts and Passwords
    Review the available digital vaults which can help you store your ever-growing and ever-changing passwords and online accounts.
  9. Consider your life situation and ask what someone may need to know
    Take a moment to consider your life situation and ask what someone may need to know if you are suddenly unable to tell them. If you want to make any changes to your will, trust, or other documents, DO NOT JUST WRITE ON THE DOCUMENTS YOU HAVE. Call your attorney and do it right. Writing on a legal document can cause unintended problems and confusion. Let technology help you. Put a calendar reminder in your phone so you won’t forget and let a decade go by before you take a look at your estate plan.

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