Summer vacation is over, the kids are back in school, the holidays are not quite here – this is a great time to review or move forward with your estate planning. Reviewing all aspects of your estate plan regularly, including your finances, and your family’s needs, is important because an estate plan is not set in stone nor is it a single document, but rather it is a comprehensive set of several legal documents,
What to Review
Beneficiary designations. For accounts and other assets such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts, the beneficiary designation is crucial. If these documents are not completed properly, an unintended person could end up with the money, completely unraveling your estate plan. As a result, we recommend reviewing beneficiary designations periodically to make sure that the correct beneficiary is named. Life can change quickly and updating beneficiary designations is sometimes the last thing on anyone’s mind when change occurs.
When using a trust as part of your estate plan, it is crucial to ensure that the accounts, property, and other assets intended to be owned by your trust have either been retitled in the trust’s name or will transfer to the trust automatically at your death. Confirm this by reviewing your beneficiary designations, account statements, and any other documents associated with your accounts, property, and other assets. If you have not properly funded your trust, those accounts, property, and other assets can end up going through probate or to unintended persons. If you are unsure and need help reviewing the ownership of your assets, we are happy to help. Click here for more information about funding your trust.
Ownership (title) on property. This is also crucial. How you own property and accounts matter. Are you a joint account holder or property owner with someone who has died? Have you corrected this to show title in your name? Did you receive a joint property in a divorce decree, but haven’t filed the necessary property deeds to prove that. Have you purchased any new property in the name of your trust or made sure the beneficiaries of real property, vehicles or accounts, reflect who your desired beneficiaries are. Property ownership overrides any estate plan – make sure yours are updated and work with your estate plan.
Your trusted helpers. Proper estate planning involves a lot of moving parts and different people. If you already have an estate plan in place, you have probably named a backup trustee in your trust, an agent under your financial power of attorney, and an agent under your medical power of attorney. Depending on how long it has been since these documents were prepared, it is important to review your decision makers and make sure that these individuals are still able to act on your behalf if you need them to. Just as your life has gone through changes, these individuals may have had a change in circumstances that make them less able or desirable to serve in these important roles. If your estate plan has stalled because you are having difficulty choosing these decision makers, we would be happy to help you.
Changes in Loved Ones. Have your loved ones changed? Have you married or remarried? Have you divorced? Have your children become adults or do you have new children? Do you have grandchildren? Has a loved one died? These are all significant changes that require revisiting an estate plan.
Changes in Assets. Did you win the lottery (hope springs eternal)? Did you buy a vacation home? Did you sell your family home and downsize to a retirement home? Did your investments change – increase or decrease – or are you working with a new advisor? Did you buy or sell cryptoassets? Any change in your assets requires thinking about your estate plan – not necessarily a change – but definitely awareness.
Schedule a Meeting with Us. Life changes pretty quickly. It is always a good idea to periodically review your estate planning documents to make sure they reflect any changes that have occurred in your personal life or in the law. In some cases, it can be beneficial to schedule a meeting with us to review the documents together. If there have been any marriages, divorces, deaths, births, or other changes in your family, as well as a change in your job or property and other assets, this can impact your estate plan, and it is crucial that the funding of and instructions in your estate planning documents reflect your wishes.
We are here to offer peace of mind to you and your family while you are alive and to your loved ones after you have passed. Give us a call so we can ensure that your estate plan will still work as intended to achieve your goals. If you do not currently have an estate plan, we are here to guide you and help craft a plan that will protect you and your loved ones.
Contact The Estate Planner LLC in our St. Louis office at 314-303-3218 for assistance with estate planning needs in Missouri.
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Written October 16, 2022