Do you have a complete estate plan? Here are three ways to know if you’re all set or still have some work to do.
A Complete Estate Plan Has Multiple Documents
A mistake often made is to think having a will means being pretty much done with estate planning. Some may even see having a will as being “good enough.”
While having a will is better than nothing, we don’t agree that it’s a complete plan. When you’re done with estate planning, you’ll have multiple documents in place.
– A trust is a good way to make sure your assets transfer to the beneficiaries you’ve picked without probate. Without a trust, the court process would go through probate to distribute the assets.
– A living will – sometimes called a medical care directive – outlines the type of medical care you want in the event you aren’t able to make those decisions yourself. For example, you can’t make decisions if you fall into a coma.
– Your financial power of attorney gives the authority for someone to make financial decisions on your behalf if you aren’t able to make them yourself.
– You may also want a limited power of attorney, which essentially gives someone power to make decisions for you. In other words, they can sign official documents in your place.
Don’t let this overwhelm you. We walk our clients through every document and every step. We do the heavy lifting, but want you to be aware of the types of documents we may recommend.
Complete Estate Plans Have Clear Beneficiaries
There are unfortunate cases where someone passes on and the beneficiaries listed on the estate plan aren’t who the decedent would have ultimately wanted. For example, maybe they had 4 grandchildren when they set up their estate but 7 by the time they passed away. If those other 3 grandchildren were never added to the estate plan, they may not get the assets the decedent would have wanted them to get.
Maybe when their estate plan was created, they had a great relationship with their sibling. Then by the time they passed away, the relationship was strained and they would not have wanted the sibling to get any assets. If the list of beneficiaries wasn’t updated, that sibling would still get the assets originally designated by the estate plan.
That’s why it’s important to review your beneficiaries on a regular basis. Change is the only constant in life, so you want to make sure your estate plan will transfer assets the way you want it to.
This brings us to the last point.
Review Your Estate Plan Regularly
Because life is always changing, it’s a good idea to review your estate plan on a regular basis. You don’t have to do this every week or month, but once or twice a year doesn’t hurt.
Review your estate plan whenever a major life change occurs including divorce, marriage, a child’s birth, a loved one passing away, a new investment or job, etc. These are big events and should lead to reviewing your plan to make sure it still reflects your current situation and what you want.
Have you done all three of these things to make sure you have a complete estate plan? If so, you’re ahead of the game. If not, give us a call at 714-663-8000 and we’ll help you get things straightened out.