For many Americans, estate planning is considered an action you take only once. You meet with your experienced estate planning attorney, discuss your goals for your legacy, review your estate planning documents, and then, when they are executed, preserve them for safekeeping. At some point in the future, you will need them for either lifetime decision making purposes or for estate administration at your death.
Unfortunately, while this is a candid overview of what estate planning is, practical aspects can be much different. For example, you may have chosen your oldest child to be your agent under your durable power of attorney. At the time you made that decision this was the best choice as your child lived close to you, was readily available, had a stable home environment and work life. As the years went past, however, perhaps this child has faced significant challenges. These challenges could be anything from bankruptcy to some form of healthcare crisis. While you supported your child through these challenges, you may not have stopped to ask yourself whether or not he or she was still the best decision maker to represent you in a fiduciary relationship.
Unfortunately, many of us complete our estate planning and then do not look at it again until the time when we need it. This can be a recipe for disaster, although not in all circumstances. We may need to change decision makers, make changes to the legacies we’ve created, or take advantage of new estate planning or tax strategies when they become available. Changes are just one of the reasons why, when you work with an experienced estate planning attorney, he or she can advise you of when periodic changes are necessary.
As we enter into a New Year, many of us are creating resolutions. These resolutions can be the goals that guide your decisions for the next twelve months, if not longer. Taking a close look at your estate plan to ensure it still reflects the goals you have for yourself and your legacy needs to be at the top of this list. We would encourage you to think about several questions including, but not limited to, the following:
– Are the decision makers named in your documents still the right choice for you right now?
– Have your personal, financial, or business circumstances changed significantly since you last met with your estate planning attorney?
– Do any of your family members have a significant disability or incapacity that needs to be reflected in your planning?
– Have you changed jobs in a way that would impact your retirement planning?
– Have you made changes to your retirement planning that need to be considered by your estate planning attorney?
– Are you contemplating retirement within the next five years?
– Are there births, and deaths, that need to be reflected in your estate plan?
– Is your marital status still the same or does that need to be updated?
These are just a few of the questions that you need to take into consideration when you carefully examine your estate plan. You need to make sure that you have the right person, and the right back up, in place on your lifetime protection documents. You need to know, in a crisis, that your decision maker may immediately be contacted and step into the role to act.
Further, when it comes to your legacy, and your goals for your business, you need to ensure that the current laws and your own personal circumstances still work for your estate plan. There are times when revision is necessary. The key is to stay abreast of changes and to know when you need to reach out to your estate planning attorney to talk about what you need.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. We also know that estate planning is never at the top of anyone’s “to do” list. With this New Year, however, we encourage you not to put off this essential part of your planning. It is estate planning that gives us the peace of mind to know that no matter what the circumstances you, and your loved ones, will be protected. Do you not wait to contact us to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys now, or anytime in the future.