An often overlooked but important New Year’s resolution is a review of your will and other estate planning documents (assuming you already have an estate plan; if not, we highly recommend that you should). Below is a basic checklist of items we suggest you review annually.
1. Major Life Changes.
Have you experienced any major life changes (gotten married or divorced; had a child or adopted a child; moved to a different state; had a death in the family; experienced a major financial event)? Any of these may affect your estate planning, and your documents may need to be revised.
2. Executor and Trustee Designations.
The individuals and/or institution you name should be responsible and trustworthy. Consider designating a corporate Trustee if none of the individuals you name are able to serve. A corporate Trustee brings expertise and resources to the table but will typically charge higher rates than individual Trustees.
3. Specific Bequests.
Update your documents to incorporate specific item of property, such as a family heirloom or jewelry that you want a particular person to receive.
4. Financial Power of Attorney.
It is essential to review who is named as your attorney-in-fact (agent) regularly to ensure that person continues to be someone you trust to deal with your bank accounts, sign your name to documents, etc.
5. Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will.
Review your health care power of attorney to ensure the persons you have appointed are individuals you trust to make major medical decisions for you. Consider appointing a person who lives in the same city or state rather than someone who lives across the country and would be less accessible in the case of an emergency. You should also review the wishes you have expressed in your living as medical standards and procedures evolve.
6. Beneficiary Designations on your Insurance and Retirement Plans.
You should also review and assess the beneficiary designations on your life insurance and retirement plans. Be sure to remove an ex-spouse so that he/she is not inadvertently left as the beneficiary of your life insurance or retirement plans.