Every year we do our very best to set goals for ourselves for the upcoming year. Yet how many times have you set a New Year’s resolution only for it to fizzle out after January ends?
Setting realistic expectations is a matter of identifying what you want and creating achievable steps to lead you to that goal.
One goal that should be at the top of everyone’s list is “Dealing with my estate plan.” Whether that means creating an estate plan, or simply reviewing and updating your plan, just take the time to make certain your estate plan works for you.
Here is a basic idea of how to take steps with this 2022 New Year’s Resolution:
1. Start with a qualified elder law and estate planning attorney. Do some research and find a good estate planning attorney in your area. Check out reviews, visit websites, ask for referrals and become educated by attending an educational workshop. Do not rely on internet searches for answers .
2. If you do not have estate planning documents. If you do not have a will, trust or powers of attorney, now is the time to get those documents in place. Give yourself and your family peace of mind.
3. If you do have existing estate planning documents, locate them. Many people have no idea where their estate planning documents are kept. Do you have originals or copies? If only copies, who has the originals? Do you keep them in a safety deposit box? Do you have electronic copies only?
For those of you who are able to put your hands on your documents, follow the remaining items on this list.
4. Review your estate planning documents. Reviewing your documents periodically is very important. Life changes, and reviewing your documents allows you to make sure your estate plan is still meeting your goals. Ensure that your documents comply and are reliable in the state in which you live.
Note these three questions and act according to your answers:
A. How old are your documents? If your documents are more than 10 years old, they might need to be updated.
B. What is your current situation? Since creating your estate planning documents, have you gotten divorced or married? Have you had any more children or grandchildren? Major health issues? Death in the family? Major financial issues? Do your children or grandchildren have any major health or financial issues?
Life changes could mean significantly affect your estate plan. If you recently remarried, do your documents reflect the new spouse? If you are no longer in contact with a child, are you still leaving them part of your estate? Have any of your named agents died?
C. Are you satisfied with your named agents? Are you still satisfied that named agents are the best choices to handle your estate or make decisions for you?
5. Review beneficiary designations. Another vital step to take when reviewing your estate plan is to review who you have named as death beneficiaries on your assets. For example, if your spouse is named as the primary beneficiary on your IRA, did you think to name a contingent beneficiary?
Reviewing your estate plan regularly is the only way to ensure it is always up to date. A good rule of thumb is to review your plan at every big life event, i.e. divorce, marriage, birth, or death, or every three to five years.
Contact a qualified estate planning attorney to have documents prepared and/or reviewed. Treat procrastination as your enemy.
Rebekah Thompson is an associate attorney with Elder Law & Estate Planning Center. hiltonheadelderlaw.com