Spring is in the air! When we think of the term “spring cleaning,” we tend to think only about how we can refresh our living spaces, donate clothes or other items that we don’t use. 

However, our annual spring cleaning festivities are also the perfect time to get our estate affairs in order by reviewing, updating, and/or creating an estate plan. Here are a few things to check for:

• Have you created an estate plan? If not, then there’s no better time than now to spring into action.

• Do you have actual executed estate planning documents? I’ve had clients who believed they had an estate plan in place but it turned out they didn’t! They only had draft documents that were never executed 5-plus years ago. A drafted estate plan is not an effective estate plan – it’s as if no estate plan was ever created.

• Do you know where your original documents are? Many times, people have no idea where their originals are. The documents may be in an old storage bin, a box from their last move that’s stored in the attic, or maybe their former attorney (who cannot be located) retained the originals. If you don’t know where your documents are, your loved ones aren’t going to be able to locate them either.

• Do people have access to your original documents? If your original documents are stored in a home safe or filing cabinet, does a trusted loved one know the combination lock or have a key? If not, then they’re likely going to encounter a delay in being able to assist you or your estate.

• When’s the last time you reviewed your documents? Reviewing your estate plan isn’t something that you do weekly or monthly. However, it’s recommended that, at minimum, you review your documents at least once every three to five years. 

• Have you experienced a life changing event since you last updated your documents? Maybe you’ve gotten married, divorced, or there’s been a new birth in the family. Whatever the event may be, it’s important to make sure that your documents still meet your goals. 

• Have your assets changed? Maybe you’ve inherited more assets and need to do some tax planning in your documents. Or, maybe you want to make specific devises of certain assets within your documents that you didn’t do before. 

• Review your beneficiaries. Do you still want your named beneficiary to inherit? Times change and relationships change. Or maybe your beneficiary has died – have you accounted for a contingency?

• Do you have reliable Power of Attorney (POA) documents? A financial power of attorney and a health care power of attorney (aka living will) are just as important as having a will or a trust.

• Review the names of your chosen executors, successor trustees, and agents in your POAs. Are these individuals still people who you trust or want, or are even capable of serving in the roles?

These are just a few things that you should check for when spring cleaning your estate plan. If you found yourself scratching your head or answering “no” to one or more of the items listed, then you’re a perfect candidate for a formal estate planning review. 

Spring into action today and don’t fall behind tomorrow – consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. 

Jada L. Gaines is an associate attorney with Elder Law & Estate Planning Center in Bluffton. hiltonheadelderlaw.com