Estate planning isn’t a one time action that you do once you’ve established your career, bought a house and hit your 30th birthday. It’s going to ebb and flow – just like life itself. One overlooked detail can set off a chain reaction, too. Here are 3 estate planning mistakes too many people make and how to avoid making them in your own plans.
Estate Planning Evolves…Just Like People
Odds are, there’s been a time in life when each day felt like the one before. We tend to get lost in the monotony only to realize in hindsight just how different life is from day to day. The same goes for our estate plan. We may think nothing changes so therefore, nothing should shift in our wills, choices in executors and trustees and our financial plans. It’s not only we knock the dust off and crack open that file folder than we realize we haven’t made any changes since our daughter, who graduated med school last month, was barely a teenager.
At least annually, review your estate plan. Take a look at your will, your insurance policies, update your digital estate – all of it. Also, if you’ve divorced, and especially if you’ve remarried, remember that you have to change your retirement accounts. Just because you change your will doesn’t mean it will apply “across the board”. You have to change every document or else live with the possibility that a former spouse and a current spouse will turn a courtroom into a Jerry Springer show after your death.
The Trustee You Trust
Look past the obvious. After you’ve ensured your local courthouse won’t transform into a talk show stage after your death, take a look at those you’ve chosen as trustees and executors. Double check your powers of attorney, too. Is your choice in your medical power of attorney still the right person? You’d be surprised to learn how often a close friend or trusted confidant passes away and it not even triggering a reminder in someone’s mind that they need to choose a different person to make financial decisions for them if they become disabled. We saw that happen in the death of Robin Williams last year. His estate could now become public fodder, despite the very detailed attention he paid to his estate plan. One of his trustees died years ago and that deceased person was still listed on one of Williams’ trusts.
On a Cloudy Day…
We live in a new world. Of course, we’ve not used quills and inks for a hundred years, nor do we use the classic typewriter to memorialize our wishes. What we are doing, however, is storing a lot of information in a space that no one sees or touches – today, the cloud is the new filing cabinet. If we can’t see it or touch it, no one else can either – especially if they don’t know it even exists. Be sure you leave the right information in the right place so that the right person will know how to access your digital assets. You’d be surprised, too, at the number of assets you actually have, even if it’s a dozen or so gift cards that still have five, ten or fifty dollars value on them.
Finally, remember that your estate planning attorney is the best first person to call with questions, changes and yes, even reassurances that you’ve got it right. To learn more about keeping your own estate planning efforts current, give us a call today.
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