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An Important New Year’s Resolution – Review Your Estate Plan

by Phil Levin, Esq. on January 10th, 2011

You may or may not be sticking to the resolutions you made on January 1st, but even if they are a vague memory, please add one more resolution to your list — “Review My Estate Plan”.

Following is a checklist to get you started:

1. Locate Your Estate Planning Documents. Check your fireproof safe, safety deposit box, or other location where you store valuable documents. Additionally, make sure that your Executor and Trustee know where your important legal documents are located.

2. Review Your Children’s Guardian Nominations. Has anything happened either in your children’s lives or your guardian’s lives that may require you to revisit your original decisions? Has the person (people) you’ve named as guardian moved, divorced, or remarried? If so, does this impact your decision? Have any changes happened that might make you rethink the people you selected as personal and financial guardians?

3. Did Any of Your Children Attain Age 18? If so, you need to make sure that they have the proper legal documents in place. While young adult children may not have significant assets requiring a comprehensive estate plan, they need to have a signed Health-Care Power of Attorney, HIPPA Waiver Authorization, and Advance Medical Directive in case they should suffer an illness, injury, or incapacity. Without these legal documents in place, you may have difficulty acting on their behalf if required.

4. Review and Think About Your Asset Distribution. Does your Will or Trust still reflect your current wishes for how and to whom you would like your property distributed? Again, life events such as births, deaths, marriage, and divorce may impact your decisions.

5. Check Your Life Insurance, Homeowner and Umbrella Policies. Does your insurance coverage still reflect an amount that would be needed to support your family if something happens to you? Has any event occurred in the past year that would require you to modify your existing insurance coverage amounts?

6. Are You Pleased with the Person Selected to be Your Executor and Trustee? Is he or she still willing to accept these fiduciary responsibilities? Has anything happened in the last year that would make you wonder whether this person is still able to perform the necessary functions? If you are in doubt, you may consider discussing this with the person you chose and make changes if necessary.

7. Update the “Intangible” Legacy You Plan to Leave Your Family. Each year you should update your “intangible” legacy. Be sure to note family member milestones, words of wisdom you would like to pass along to your children and other family members, along with significant accomplishments. Many clients feel this is the most valuable part of their estate plan….so be sure to spend time on creating or updating your “intangible” legacy.

As I share with my clients, an estate plan changes as your life changes. While every change in your life does not require you to update your estate plan, it is important to think through the past year’s events and experiences to make sure that your estate plan will still take care of your family just as you planned.

Thank you for allowing me to share with you what I believe to be one of the most important gifts we can leave our family: A Lasting Legacy. I wish you a happy, healthy, and joyous new year !!

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