Steps to Ensure Your Estate Plan Reflects Your Current Wishes
Estate planning is an essential tool to ensure the protection and proper distribution of one's assets upon their departure. However, circumstances change, people come and go in our lives and laws get amended. Therefore, it’s crucial to review and revise your estate plan regularly to ensure it aligns with your current wishes. Here's a comprehensive guide to help you review your estate plan.
Step 1. Review Your Last Will and Testament:
Your "Last Will and Testament" is the foundation of your estate plan. It outlines how you'd like your assets to be distributed after your death. An outdated Last Will can lead to unintended beneficiaries or disputes amongst heirs.
Tip: If there are major life changes like marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or the death of a beneficiary, it's time to revisit your Last Will.
Step 2. Assess Your Power of Attorney Documents:
Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows someone else to act on your behalf. There are two main types: one for healthcare decisions and one for financial transactions. Life is unpredictable and there may come a time when you're unable to make decisions for yourself.
Recommendation: Regularly review the individuals you've chosen. Ensure they're still willing and able to act on your behalf and that they know where to find these essential documents.
Step 3. Inspect Your Living Will:
A Living Will is distinct from the testamentary Will. It provides instructions about medical treatments you'd wish to undergo if you were terminally ill or in a permanent unconscious state.
Advice: Discuss your wishes with close family members, so they’re not caught off guard in an emergency.
Step 4. Review Your Beneficiary Designations:
Assets like life insurance policies and retirement accounts usually bypass your Last Will and go directly to the named beneficiaries. It's easy to forget whom you've designated and these choices may no longer reflect your current desires.
Note: A periodic check, especially after major life events, can help ensure that the right people inherit these assets.
Step 5. Check for Asset Titles:
How you title your assets can impact how they're distributed upon your death. Jointly held assets often pass directly to the surviving owner, regardless of what's in your Last Will.
Observation: Assets owned by a trust must be correctly titled to the trust. Double-check titles to make sure they match your intentions.
Step 6. Evaluate Guardianship Provisions:
For those with minor children, ensuring they're cared for by trusted individuals is paramount. Your Last Will should specify guardianship provisions.
Suggestion: Have open conversations with potential guardians to ensure they're willing and prepared for the responsibility.
Step 7. Consider Funeral and Memorial Arrangements:
Although a sensitive topic, pre-planning can relieve your loved ones from making difficult decisions during a time of grief. Whether you have specific wishes or have pre-arranged everything, ensure this information is accessible.
Guidance: Some people include funeral wishes in the Last Will, but it’s often better to relay this information separately since Last Wills aren’t typically read immediately after death.
Step 8. Reassess Every Few Years:
Laws change, as do personal and financial situations. A good rule of thumb is to review your estate plan every three to five years. More frequent reviews might be necessary after significant life events.
Estate planning is more than just drafting a will. It's a comprehensive approach to ensure your wishes, both in life and after, are met. By following this guide and keeping your estate plan up-to-date, you're not only protecting your legacy but also providing clarity and peace of mind for your loved ones. Remember, an estate plan is a living document that should evolve as your life does. Regular reviews help ensure your wishes are always honored.