Monthly Archives: October 2019

Things to continually review in your Estate Plan

Things To Continually Review In Your Current Estate Plan

October 21-27, 2019 was Estate Planning Awareness Week. Now that summer vacations are over and the kids are back in school, it is a great time to review or move forward with your estate planning. Because estate planning is a comprehensive plan and not just a single document, it is important to regularly review all aspects of your plan, your finances, and your family’s needs.

We put together a list of the top things you should review when looking at your current estate plan.

Beneficiary Designations: For assets such as life insurance and retirement accounts, the beneficiary designation form is a crucial document. If these documents are not filled out properly, the wrong or unintended person could end up with the asset, completely unraveling your estate plan. As a result, it is a good idea to review these documents periodically to make sure that the correct beneficiary is named. Life can change quickly, and sometimes changing beneficiary designations is the last thing on anyone’s mind.

Temporary Guardianships: In many states, a parent or legal guardian has the ability to appoint a temporary guardian for a minor child for a limited period of time. This appointment allows the temporary guardian to make decisions on behalf of the minor as if he or she were the child’s parent, without court involvement or approval. This document can be helpful if a minor child is going to be staying with a relative or close friend for a period of time because a parent or legal guardian is on vacation or otherwise unavailable. If you live far away from family, it may also be a good idea to have a friend or trusted neighbor have a temporary guardianship for your children. However, this appointment is usually only valid for a short period of time (up to twelve months in some states) and needs to be re-signed regularly. If you have children, you should have a temporary guardianship and make sure that this document has not expired.

Ensuring proper ownership (“title”) on property: If you have a trust as part of your estate plan, you have to ensure that the assets that are 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. To make sure that this is done, check your beneficiary designations, account statements, and any other documents associated with your assets. If you have not properly funded your trust, those assets will go through probate, which can be a time consuming and expensive process. If you are unsure and need help reviewing the ownership of your property, we are happy to help.

Your Appointed Decision-Makers: Proper estate planning involves a lot of moving parts and people. You have probably named a Successor Trustee in your trust, an Attorney-in-Fact (“agent”) under your Financial Power of Attorney, and a Patient Advocate (“proxy” or “healthcare agent”) under your Medical Power of Attorney. Depending upon how long it has been since you first prepared the documents, it is important to review your decisions and make sure that these individuals are still able to act on your behalf if you need them to. Just like 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.

Important Information for Trusted Decision Makers: While your estate planning documents appoint individuals to act on your behalf and give them the authority to do so, they sometimes do not contain all of the necessary information to handle your affairs, manage your finances, or make decisions on your behalf. As you review your estate planning documents, it is also a good idea to compile a “road map” for your fiduciaries. Some of the information you may want to consider including is:

● Your social security number
● Your doctor’s names and contact information
● Your pertinent medical information, including care providers and medications
● Your professionals’ (accountant, financial advisor, life insurance agent, etc.) names and contact information
● Bank account numbers
● Where to find your important documents
● Contact information, dates of birth, and social security numbers for your children
● Information regarding your pets

By compiling this information and making it accessible to your trusted decision-makers, you can help them be better prepared to carry out their roles.

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 time for us to review the documents together. If there have been any marriages, divorces, deaths, births, etc. in your family, this can impact your estate plan, and it is crucial that the 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 at 770-817-4999 or message us here so we can make sure that everything 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.

National Estate Planning Awareness Week

Estate Planning Awareness Week: The Importance to You and Your Family of Having an Estate Plan

In 2008, Congress recognized the need for the public to understand the importance and benefits of estate planning by passing House Resolution 1499, which designated the third week of October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. Nevertheless, according to a 2019 survey carried out by Caring.com, 57% of adults in the United States have not prepared any estate planning documents such as a will or trust despite the fact that 76% viewed them as important. Many of the respondents said this was due to procrastination, but many others mistakenly believed that it was not necessary because they did not have many assets.

Why should you have an estate plan?

An estate plan can provide significant peace of mind by ensuring your assets are protected, plans are in place in the event you become ill, and your property is passed down according to your wishes.

What key topics should you consider?

  • Do you have a last will and testament and/or a trust? If you do not have these important documents, state law will determine who will inherit your property—and thus it may not occur in the way you would have chosen. In addition, someone appointed by the court, instead of a trusted person of your choosing, will be in charge of caring for any children or pets. Spelling out your wishes in a will or trust will also prevent unnecessary confusion, anxiety, and expense for other family members when you are gone.
  • Have the proper powers of attorney been prepared? A financial power of attorney will allow you to designate an individual to make financial and property decisions for you should you become unable to handle your own affairs. A medical power of attorney enables you to designate a person you trust to make medical decisions for you when you are otherwise unable to speak for yourself.
  • Make sure that you have an advanced directive, also called a living will, which memorializes your wishes concerning your end of life care, such as whether you would like to receive life support if you are in a vegative state or terminal condition.
  • Do you have insurance? If you become incapacitated or die, it is important for your family or loved ones to have information about your insurance (such as life, health, disability, longterm care, etc.) so that claims can be filed.
  • Compile a list of all of your accounts and other important information, including bank and investment accounts, titles to vehicles and homes, credit card accounts or loans, digital accounts (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) and passwords, Social Security cards, passports and birth certificates, which may be needed to manage your property when you are incapacitated or settle your estate once you are gone. This information should be kept in a safe place and shared only with trusted family members or loved ones.
  • A list of legal, financial, and medical professionals who have performed services for you is also important. The list should include their contact information so your family can easily reach them in the event their help is needed if you become disabled or die. If desired, you should also ensure HIPAA authorizations are in place with medical professionals to ensure your family members are able to obtain needed information.

How should you encourage your family members to create an estate plan?

Estate Planning Awareness Week is a great opportunity not only to take steps to make sure your own estate plan is in place, but also to talk to your family members, especially elderly parents, about creating an estate plan. Estate planning is often a difficult topic to broach, as it brings the unpleasant topics of aging and death to the forefront of our minds. Here are a few tips to help you start the conversation.

  • Be sensitive to your family members’ feelings. Put yourself in their shoes, and keep in mind that few people are eager to dwell on the subject of their own death. One way to begin the conversation is to talk first about the need to plan for an illness and to provide instructions in the event they become too ill to communicate with doctors or handle financial matters for themselves. The conversation can then naturally progress to the importance of having an estate plan that will enable their assets to be transferred in the way that they wish, provide for the care of any dependents or pets, and minimize any taxes, court costs, and legal fees. Communicate that you are not trying to control their decisions, but only want to ensure that their own wishes regarding their medical care and their property are known—and that all their instructions are in writing to guarantee they are carried out.
  • Involve other family members in the conversation. If you are planning to speak to your parents about the need for an estate plan, it is important to try to include any siblings in the discussion to avoid giving the impression that you are trying to influence or control your parents’ choices. You and your siblings should emphasize to your parents that none of you are asking about what you will inherit, but just want to make sure that their wishes are carried out if they become ill or pass away.

Consult an estate planning attorney. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you and your family members create an estate plan tailored to meet each of your unique needs and carry out your wishes—or help you update a pre-existing estate plan. We can provide each family member with guidance and information about the options available to them. We can help each of you put a plan in place that will prevent unnecessary stress, legal expenses and taxes, uneven inheritances, disputes between family members, and delays in passing life savings on to loved ones. In addition, it will provide you and your family members with the peace of mind that comes with knowing there are plans in place for your care if any of you become ill and that your wishes will be honored once you pass away. Call us today at 770-817-4999 or click here to set up a meeting.