October 18-24, 2021 is Estate Planning Awareness Week. Now that summer vacation is over and the kids are back in school, it is a great time to review or move forward with your estate planning. Because an estate plan is not just a single document but rather a comprehensive set of several legal documents, it is important to regularly review all aspects of your plan, your finances, and your family's needs.
Elements of Your Plan to Review
Beneficiary designations. For accounts and other assets such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts, the beneficiary designation form is a crucial document. If these documents are not completed properly, an unintended person could end up with the money, 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 updating beneficiary designations is sometimes the last thing on anyone's mind.
Temporary guardianships. In many states, a parent or legal guardian has the ability to appoint a temporary guardian for a minor child in a separate writing (other than a will) for a limited period of time. This appointment allows the temporary guardian to make decisions on behalf of the minor as if the temporary guardian were the child's parent, without court involvement or approval. This document can be helpful if a minor child is going to be staying with a relative or close friend for a period of time because a parent or legal guardian is on vacation or otherwise unavailable. If you live far away from family or the guardian appointed in your will, it may also be a good idea to appoint a friend or trusted neighbor as a temporary guardian for your child. However, this appointment is usually only valid for a short period of time (up to twelve months in some states) and therefore needs to be re-signed regularly.
Ownership (title) on property. When using a trust as part of your estate plan, it is crucial to ensure that the accounts, property, and other assets intended to be owned by your trust have either been retitled in the trust's name or will transfer to the trust automatically at your death. Confirm this by reviewing your beneficiary designations, account statements, and any other documents associated with your accounts, property, and other assets. If you have not properly funded your trust, those accounts, property, and other assets can end up going through probate, which can be a time-consuming and expensive process. If you are unsure and need help reviewing the ownership of your assets, we are happy to help.
Your trusted decision-makers. Proper estate planning involves a lot of moving parts and different people. If you already have an estate plan in place, you have probably named a backup trustee in your trust, an agent under your financial power of attorney, and an agent under your medical power of attorney. Depending on how long it has been since these documents were prepared, it is important to review your decision-makers and make sure that these individuals are still able to act on your behalf if you need them to. Just as your life has gone through changes, these individuals may have had a change in circumstances that make them less able or desirable to serve in these important roles. If your estate plan has stalled because you are having difficulty choosing these decision-makers, we would be happy to help you.
Important information for trusted decision-makers. While your estate planning documents appoint individuals to act on your behalf and give them the authority to do so, they sometimes do not contain all of the necessary information to handle your affairs. As you review your estate planning documents, it is also a good idea to compile a road map for your trusted decision-makers. Consider including the following information:
- Your Social Security number
- Names and contact information for your doctors
- Your pertinent medical information, including care providers and medications
- Names and contact information for your professional advisors (accountant, financial advisor, life insurance agent, etc.)
- 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
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.
Schedule a Meeting with Us
Life changes pretty quickly. It is always a good idea to periodically review your estate planning documents to make sure they reflect any changes that have occurred in your personal life or in the law. In some cases, it can be beneficial to schedule a meeting with us to review the documents together. If there have been any marriages, divorces, deaths, births, or other changes in your family, as well as a change in your job or property and other assets, this can impact your estate plan, and it is crucial that the instructions in your estate planning documents reflect your wishes.
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 at 770-425-6060 so we can ensure that your estate plan will still work as intended to achieve your goals. If you do not currently have an estate plan, we are here to guide you and help craft a plan that will protect you and your loved ones.