Now that the empty champagne bottles and party hats have been put away (hopefully), we can finally breathe and work towards our goals for the new year. If you don’t have an estate plan in place yet, working on getting one should be a top priority for 2015. A common misconception is that estate planning is for the wealthy, but anyone with a house or have children needs to make a plan for what happens if they become incapacitated or pass away. And it actually involves a wide array of estate planning options. This involves using trusts to distribute your property without the probate court and health care directives to express your wishes regarding medical treatment
If you do have an estate plan in place already, GREAT! It’s the perfect time to review and see if there any are life changes that may require a few modifications to your estate plan. Some things to consider:
1) Are you able to easily locate your estate planning documents? And does your trustee, representative or agent know about them and where they are located?
2) Did you get married or divorce?
3) Did you have a child or a grandchild that needs to be mentioned in your plan?
4) Are there any significant changes in your children’s guardian nominations? Has anything happened either in your children’s lives or your guardian’s lives that may make you rethink things? Has the named guardian moved, get a divorce, remarry?
5) Did you buy a house? One of the most common mistakes is failure to update a plan after a home has been purchased or sold. Forgetting to transfer the new house into the trust may force your estate into probate, which is why a trust may have been created to avoid.
6) Did you move to another state?
7) Did you sell your business, retire, have significant change in assets or win the lottery? Any significant assets that you acquire should be transferred into your trust to avoid probate.
8) Have you lost a family member or friend who was named as a trustee, personal representative or agent in your estate plan? Or has anything happened in the past year that would impact your decision to have them administer your plan?
Estate planning is not a one shot done deal – it’s a continuing process because our life journey is full of constant changes. While every milestone in your life does not mean that you need to update your estate plan, it’s important to think through the past year’s events to make sure that your estate plan will still take care of your family and loved ones just as you desired.
About the Author
Christine Chung, Esq.