As 2017 comes to a close, now is a good time to review your estate plan. Although there are many aspects of your plan to consider, we recommend performing at least the following tasks:
1. Review Beneficiaries
Are the beneficiaries listed in your Living Trust or your Will still the individuals you want to inherit your assets? Have you divorced? Have you remarried? Have any beneficiaries proven themselves financially irresponsible? If one of your children is newly married, do you want to ensure the spouse does not get your assets? Have you had additional children or grandchildren?
Additionally, take time to review beneficiary designations on insurance policies, your 401(k), your IRA, or your bank accounts and other financial assets. These simple actions can go a long way to ensure that your assets go to the right people and, potentially, keep your heirs from fighting over your estate.
2. Inventory Assets
If you have purchased or inherited new assets in 2017—a house, a car, mineral rights, artwork—or sold others, your estate plan should reflect those changes. If not accounted for in your estate planning documents, those assets may be subject to probate (or cause other unintended consequences) after your death.
3. Review Your Power of Attorney
Your power of attorney grants someone (your "attorney-in-fact") the ability to act for you in financial and/or medical situations. If you no longer trust the person you have named as your attorney-in-fact, or if the person you named has moved away, you should consider updating your documents.
Additionally, some financial institutions and medical providers are wary of powers of attorney that are more than a few years old—even though the documents are still legally valid. To avoid any problems with using your documents, we recommend updating your powers of attorney at least every few years.
4. Create a Digital Estate Plan
Most people focus on the tangible side of estate planning, but have you set up an estate plan for your digital assets? What happens to your email accounts, social media accounts, and online bank and investment accounts after you die? What happens to photos or other important documents you have stored online?
To make things easier on you, we put together a five-step guide for creating your digital estate plan. So take a few minutes over the holidays to set your digital assets in order.
5. Have a "Fire Drill"
We recommend scheduling a family meeting to hold a "fire drill": Explain your estate planning documents to your family; show them where your important information is located; and walk them through exactly what needs to be done after your death. It's not always easy or happy to discuss your estate plan, but having a "fire drill" like this gives your family members a chance to raise any questions they have about your estate. And if they know exactly what to do, it can also dramatically reduce their stress after your passing.
Get a Free Consultation
There are many factors that can influence your estate plan, but reviewing the five items listed above can help ensure that your estate plan does what it is supposed to do. To discuss your estate plan with qualified estate-planning attorneys, contact the Oklahoma City law firm of Postic & Bates for a free, no-obligation consultation.
[As with all our posts, the contents of this article do not constitute legal advice and are subject to our site-wide disclaimer.]