If you have an estate plan, you have taken an important step toward preserving your wealth and protecting your loved ones from needing to make difficult decisions without your guidance. Everyone should have an estate plan; and, by putting one together, you have provided yourself and your family with some much-needed certainty.
But, when it comes to estate planning, preparing your initial estate plan is not the end of the story. During your lifetime, several events can necessitate changes to your plan; and, depending on what changes, you may find that additional estate planning tools are necessary.
In order to ensure that your estate plan remains up-to-date, it is important to review your plan from time to time. For example, as a general rule, most estate planning lawyers will recommend that you:
- Make a note to review your estate plan every three to five years; and,
- Review your estate plan after major life events, such as moving or having a child.
Most likely, changes will not be necessary every time you review your estate plan. However, by reviewing your plan on a regular basis, you can ensure that you make necessary updates or modifications when the time comes.
These Are the Parts of Your Estate Plan to Review
When you review your estate plan, what are you looking for? If you haven’t looked at your estate plan since you signed it, knowing where to focus can be a little bit challenging. With this in mind, here are some of the key parts of your estate plan that you will want to review:
1. Your Will
In your will, you will want to review all of the provisions that pertain to who will administer your estate, how your assets will be distributed, and who will take care of your minor children (if applicable). With this in mind, you should focus on:
- Your Personal Representative: Your personal representative is the individual who will take your estate through probate and handle the process of winding up your final affairs. Is your current personal representative still your preferred choice, and is he or she still available and willing to serve in the role?
- Your Devisees: Your devisees are the individuals or organizations (e.g., charities) that will receive a share of your estate after your death. Are you still comfortable with your chosen devisees? Is there anyone that needs to be added or removed? Do you want to make any changes to how your assets will be distributed?
- Your Survival Provisions: If you were married when you prepared your estate plan, your plan likely includes “survival” provisions that are specific to your spouse. If you have gotten married since you prepared your plan, you may want to update it to include appropriate survival provisions. Have you gotten married or divorced since you prepared your estate plan?
- Your Guardian: If you have minor children, appointing a guardian in your will ensures that someone you trust will take care of your children should you pass away unexpectedly. Have you had children since you prepared your estate plan? Is your current guardian still the person who you want to raise your children in your absence?
- Your Personal Information: Your will contains your basic personal information (i.e., your full name and address), and keeping this information up-to-date is important to ensure that your will can be probated efficiently. Have you moved since you prepared your estate plan? Have you gotten married and changed your name?
2. Revocable Living Trust
If you have a revocable living trust in your estate plan, this is the document that will be used to distribute the substantial majority (if not all) of your assets after your death. While you can distribute your assets through your will, preparing a revocable living trust offers a number of important benefits. In order to ensure that your revocable living trust serves its intended purpose, you will want to review:
- Your Trustee: Your trustee serves in a similar role to your personal representative under your will (and these may very well be the same person). Is your current trustee still the person who you want to manage your trust after your death? Is he or she still available and willing to serve?
- Your Beneficiaries: Your beneficiaries are the individuals or organizations that will receive the assets you place into your revocable living trust. Does your list of beneficiaries still reflect your final wishes, or do changes need to be made? Do you need to add any beneficiaries (e.g., a new child) or remove any beneficiaries (e.g., a loved one who has passed away)?
- The Terms of Distribution: When you prepare a revocable living trust, you have control over not only who receives which assets, but how and when your assets are distributed as well. Are you still comfortable with the current terms of distribution, or do you need to make changes as a result of changed circumstances? Have your children passed the age at which they were to receive assets from the trust; and, if so, are you comfortable with your children receiving assets from the trust immediately upon your death?
3. Power of Attorney, Medical Directive, and Health Care Surrogate
Powers of attorney, medical directives, and health care surrogate designations are important estate planning tools that ensure your loved ones will be able to manage your finances and medical care in accordance with your wishes, should it become necessary for them to do so. While these are three distinct documents, they all have two primary aspects that you will want to review:
- Your Representative or Surrogate – Are you still comfortable with the person you have chosen to make financial or health care decisions on your behalf?
- Your Preferences in the Event of Incapacity – Are you still comfortable with the guidelines and discretion you have provided to your loved ones in the event of your incapacity?
Schedule an Appointment with a Jacksonville Planning Lawyer Today
If you need to update your estate plan, or if you would like help deciding whether any updates or modifications are necessary, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at Beller & Bustamante, P.L. To speak with one of our planning lawyers in confidence, call us directly or request a consultation online today.