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Estate Plan Check Up

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Posted on Jan 30, 2015 | Share this post: Like Us on Facebook Join Us on Google Follow Us on Twitter

It’s a new year and a good time to check your estate plan to see if it still matches your wishes.  Here’s a checklist to help ensure your plan is up-to-date and functional.  Use it every few years — or anytime a significant event happens in your life – to guide your review of your plan. 

YOUR WILL OR TRUST

Where is the original?  (Note that if it is in your safe deposit box, your personal representative might not be able to access it.)

Any changes this year?

You

  • Marital status?
  • Residency?
  • Birth of child?
  • Add a pet?
  • Significant financial change?

Your Beneficiaries

  • Marital status?
  • Birth of child?
  • Capacity?
  • Special needs, needs state assistance now or might in the future?
  • Significant financial change?
  • Problems with drugs, alcohol, spending?

Document Review

Does it name the correct:

  • Family members?
  • Beneficiaries?
  • Personal Representative/Executor?
  • Trustee(s)?
  • Guardian(s) for minor children?
  • Is it properly signed, witnessed, and notarized, if needed?

Are charitable bequests   . . .      

  • Clearly identified?
  • Still appropriate?
  • The only ones you wish to include?

Trust Funding

Have these assets been retitled into the name of the trust?

  • Real estate (or beneficiary deed).
  • Bank and brokerage accounts.
  • Business interests (in accordance with business agreement).
  • Personal property.

Personal Property

Have you listed items in a document separate from your trust or Will?

  • Are all items and recipients identifiable?
  • Are all gifts consistent with current wishes?
  • Is it signed and dated?
  • Will your PR/executor know where to find it?

Communication

  • Personal Representative/Executor
  • Does he or she know where your Will/Trust is?
  • Who to contact?
  • Your burial, funeral wishes?

BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS/JOINT OWNERSHIP

Note: Your Will or Trust does not affect these.  Specific beneficiary designations or joint ownership with right of survivorship trump a Will or Trust.

Check beneficiary, pay on death, or transfer on death designations for . . .

  • Life insurance.
  • Retirement accounts.
  • Bank/brokerage accounts.
  • Annuities.

Check titling of . . .

  • Real estate (understand how you hold title!)
  • Bank/brokerage accounts.
  • Automobiles.

Consider . . .

  • Should you name an individual, a trust, or sub-trust?
  • Do you need/have you named contingent beneficiaries?
  • Any major life changes make designations inappropriate?

HEALTH-CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY/LIVING WILL

Agents:

  • Are they still appropriate?
  • Could your agent benefit from the help of a co-agent?

Document review:         

  • Is it older than five years?  If so, UPDATE!
  • Was it drafted in the state where you reside?
  • Signed and notarized with a clear stamp?
  • Are the Living Will provisions still consistent with your wishes?
  • Are mental health powers included?

Communication:

  • Does your agent know he/she is named?
  • Does he/she have a copy?
  • Does your doctor have a copy?

FINANCIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY

Agents:

  • Are they still appropriate?
  • Could your agent benefit from the help of a co-agent?

Document review:         

  • Is it older than five years?  If so, UPDATE!
  • Was it drafted in the state where you reside?
  • Signed and notarized with a clear stamp?
  • Does it permit your Agent to give gifts?  Should it?
  • Does it include provisions to ensure your spouse, dependent children and pets can be provided for?        

Communication:

  • Does your agent know he/she is named?
  • Does he/she have a copy?
  • Does your doctor have a copy?

COMMUNICATION

To assist your Agent/Trustee/Personal Representative, provide him or her with the following information – or instructions as to where this information is located.

Provide . . .

  • Location.
  • Account numbers.
  • Contact information.
  • Usernames and passwords for online access.

. . . For the following . . .

  • Bank and brokerage accounts
  • Insurance policies (life, disability, homeowners, auto, long-term care, health care)      
  • Income sources (pension, stock buy-outs)
  • Government benefits (Social Security, VA benefits)

Plus:

  • Income Tax return or CPA information
  • Name of estate planning attorney
  • Location of spare keys and security codes        
  • Pet care instructions
  • Veterinarian contact information
  • List of medications
  • List of allergies

INSTRUCTIONS

In addition, consider sharing details that can make your fiduciary’s job easier.

  • Funeral wishes or prepaid arrangements.
  • Contact info for friends, family, clergy, other key people.
  • Location of important documents, valuable items.