With a new year comes many new changes. Now that we are already almost a quarter of the way into 2017, it’s important to look at the many options you have in the coming year to create a more comprehensive and up-to-date estate plan. Recently, we have written about ways to take care of your estate plan and important factors to keep in mind when making estate planning decisions. Below are some specific areas that you may want to consider regarding estate planning throughout the year.
- Review Documentation
Are all your documents complete? Are they signed where they need to be signed and placed in a secure location? An experienced estate planning attorney will review your estate planning documents for accuracy and to ensure they comply with the law, but you should be sure any additional documents – like insurance forms and beneficiary designations – are complete.
- Update Healthcare Documentation
If you haven’t included healthcare documentation in your estate planning, like a Durable Power of Attorney and/or HIPPA Authorizations, now is the time to consider doing so. This will ensure that the person you select to make decisions for you in circumstances where you cannot is legally able to do so. Make sure to talk to the person you select about your wishes so that they are clear.
- Update Beneficiaries
If you experienced a major life event in the past year, such as the death of a loved one or even divorce, you may want to update your existing beneficiary forms to reflect that. You may have welcomed grandchildren, or there may be new circumstances that have led you to want to create a trust for a family member. It is important to make sure that any asset needing a beneficiary has one listed, and in many cases that a secondary beneficiary is also listed.
- Review Details of Insurance Policies
Many people have insurance policies that they have carried for a long period of time that may have lower benefits that the insured person would like. Perhaps you purchased the policy when you were in a weaker financial state? Perhaps you purchased it when you were single and not planning on having children? Other people have insurance policies where the benefits can changes depending on age and other factors. Whatever the case might be, you should review your insurance policies on a regular basis to make sure that they are effective, up to date, and that they provide the type of benefits you want. You may also want to consider purchasing long-term care insurance either on its own or as an add-on to an existing policy that can help over the cost of long-term care without draining savings from your estate.
- Make Sure Children Are Protected
If you’ve had children since creating your estate plan, or have had additional children or welcomed grandchildren since then, it is important to make sure that they are protected. If your children are under 18, you will need to nominate someone to take care of them in circumstances where you are unable to do so. You should also take into consideration any children you may be asked to care for if their parents cannot and ensure that those circumstances are addressed in your estate plan, too.
- Plan Your Gifts Wisely
You can “gift” certain amounts each year to individuals in addition to providing unlimited charitable gifts. If you have grandchildren, you can also “gift” them tuition if you pay those costs directly to the school they attend. This can help you reduce the value of your taxable estate during your lifetime, which can save your loved ones from financial hardships that could come with being subject to the estate tax. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you understand the tax guidelines for gifts.
- Communicate with Your Family
It is important to communicate essential details about your goals regarding your estate plan with those closest to you. While you don’t necessarily need to divulge every detail, explaining why you have planned your estate as you have can help them understand your goals as well as the reasoning behind them. This can help you avoid some challenges that may arise during administration of your estate and can even help your family members feel more comfortable knowing that you have a comprehensive plan in place should the need arise.