Everyone needs an estate plan. It does not matter if you have minimal assets, no children, pets, or millions of dollars in assets. Everyone needs to have a detailed plan for their future that others can refer to when the individual can no longer plan. Estate planning is just not about what should happen when you die, but what should happen when you are not able to speak for yourself.
Estate planning is not just having a will or a trust. Estate planning includes planning for medical emergencies when you cannot speak on your behalf, planning for your last illness, planning for your financial affairs when you are not capable of managing them, deciding who will care for your children when you are not able to, and planning for what happens after you pass away. Young adults heading off to college should at a minimum have three estate planning documents: Patient Advocate Designation, including a Living Will and HIPAA Authorization; Durable Power of Attorney; and Last Will and Testament. What documents you need for your estate plan will depend on your desired goals, your assets, and your family situation. Estate plans are not a one size fits all. Your estate plan should be tailored to you, your family, and your future goals.
There are times in your life that you should consider if your estate plan will accomplish your goals. Those times include graduating from high school (or turning eighteen years old), graduating from college, getting married, the birth of a child, the youngest child turning age eighteen, the birth of a grandchild, getting divorced, retiring, or moving to a new state. These are major life events that should trigger at minimum pulling out your current estate plan and reviewing it. When you finish reviewing the estate plan, ask yourself, “Does this still accomplish my goals?” and “Have my goals changed since I last reviewed these documents?” In your review, you should also consider if the designated persons are still the right people for the roles you have assigned.
Besides the major life events, an estate plan should be reviewed at least every two years. Life changes quickly and what worked two years ago may no longer be ideal for today. You should consult with your estate planning attorney at a minimum of every three years to discuss funding issues, to review your goals, to ensure that your documents will accomplish your goals, and to ensure that your financial institutions will not consider the estate planning documents stale. We have learned from our client’s situations that some banks and credit unions will not accept any Durable Power of Attorney that was signed more than five years ago. This can create a problem if your Durable Power of Attorney is one that only becomes effective upon your disability. We have assisted successor agents in overcoming this hurdle when the grantor of the power became disabled and was not able to sign a new document. This can be prevented during a review with your attorney and by checking with your bank or financial institution when you shortly after you draft the estate plan.
Start, or review, your estate plan with our office today! Call and have your fifteen minute free phone consultation with our client coordinator today!