Although it may seem like a chore it is important to review your estate planning documents regularly. Whether your intentions or your life changes, you want to ensure your documents will work properly and carry out your wishes.
So, you know you need to review the documents but what are you even looking for? These are the top 4 things to look at when reviewing your estate plan at home:
#1 Are the people you have named as beneficiaries still the people you want to inherit from your estate?
Most people automatically think of disinheriting a beneficiary when we discuss updating beneficiaries but you also want to ensure that you are not leaving anyone out. If there have been births or new relationships formed you may need to update your documents in order to ensure the people you want to inherit from your estate are listed as beneficiaries. Additionally, you should look at how your beneficiaries will inherit from your estate. For example, if one of your named beneficiaries applied for government entitlements, you would need to review how they would receive their inheritance as you wouldn’t want a lump sum of money to disqualify them.
#2 Have there been changes to your assets?
When you created your trust one of the initial tasks should have been funding your trust. Whether you did this on your own or with the help of your attorney you should have re-titled your assets into the name of the trust and reviewed all accounts with listed beneficiaries to ensure that nothing would go through Probate. If you have had any asset changes since your documents have been created you should review them to make sure they are properly titled into the trust. If you’ve purchased a new home or inherited a brokerage account these assets will need to be funded into your trust otherwise they risk going through Probate. Finally, if you’ve made any changes to your current assets such as refinancing your home it’s important to confirm it is still properly titled into the name of your trust. One of the main reasons many folks create trusts is to avoid Probate and if funding is not maintained your trust may not work as intended.
#3 Are your named agents and the successor trustee(s) still able to step in and act on your behalf?
There are many factors that can necessitate a change to your successor trustee or agents. Maybe your relationship has soured and you no longer feel comfortable with the person you have named as an agent or trustee acting on your behalf. For your health care agent specifically, are they still geographically local? If your agent has moved out of the area they may not be able to respond quickly if you end up in the hospital and need someone to make quick medical decisions. The other big question is- are they still willing and able to serve as a trustee or agent? If anyone has passed away or experienced major life changes which would interfere with them acting on your behalf you should select someone else or have a backup choice listed.
#4 When was your estate plan created?
It’s important to take into account the age of your documents. If it has been a while since you’ve reviewed your documents with an attorney you should schedule a review appointment. Even if nothing in your life has changed there may be new legal strategies or laws that you are not aware of that may impact your plan.
Notice something is no longer correct? You should contact an experienced estate planning attorney to schedule a trust review to discuss any issues and determine if changes are necessary.