It’s a good idea to review your estate plan every year or so. If there’s been a significant change to your plan then you may need to modify or update it. I suggest reviewing your estate plan at the beginning of the new year; the same time your getting financial documents together for tax season.
Below is a list of “look-fors”, questions to ask yourself and reminders to consider as you review your documents:
Financial Power of Attorney
Who are your agents? Do you have at least one alternate? (two is preferable) Are they still available to act as your attorney-in-fact? Have they passed away, moved, or are no longer willing to act as your agent? If necessary contact your agent and subsequent agent. Remind them of their obligation, and see if they are still willing to act as your agent. Make sure they have a copy of your financial power of attorney. If your financial power of attorney was signed before 2010, it’s a good idea to have it updated, since Colorado modified the power of attorney act at that time. Your document might not have the full force and affect that you think it does.
Health Care Power of Attorney
Who are your health care agents? Do you have at least one alternate? (two is preferable) Are they still available to act as your health care agent? Have they passed away, moved, or are no longer willing to act as your health care agent? If necessary contact your agent and subsequent agent. Remind them of their obligation, and see if they are still willing to act as your agent. Make sure they have a copy of your health care power of attorney. Make sure your health care power of attorney contains a HIPAA release.
Make sure your wishes and desires expressed in your living will coincide with your wishes and desires expressed in your health care power of attorney. Double check to make sure these documents do not conflict with each other.
Last Will and Testament
You should consider re-doing your will if there’s been changes to your estate planning goals. Some questions to ask yourself is if your family has changed since you signed your will. In other words, has their been any births (new heirs), or has someone passed away. Has the value of your assets changed significantly? Have you acquired any new assets that would change your estate planning goals? As you look over your will, ask who gets what, and who’s in charge. Consider a person’s age and mental capacity when reconsidering your executor and/or guardian. Is the person still up for the job? Will he or she be able to do what is asked of them?
Are your trusts funded? A trust that is not funded will fail. Fund your trusts.
Move Assets Outside of Probate
This is probably one of the most overlooked portions of an estate plan and yet it’s so easy to correct. Make sure you have the correct beneficiary designations, on your life insurance, and retirement plans. Children under 18 are not allowed enter into contracts, therefor is a child is listed the court will appoint a conservator for the beneficiary who will then decide how funds are distributed. Additionally make sure your assets are titled correctly, such as joint tenancy, and your bank accounts are payable-on-death accounts. Vehicles in Colorado can be transfered-on-death which is yet another way of keeping assets out of probate.
Keep Your Estate Documents Safe
Can your executor easily find your estate planning documents? Is everything together and organized? Did you have your account numbers, passwords, and keys in a safe place where trusted representative can find them? Did you tell him or her where to look?
Your estate plan is a journey not a goal. I tell my clients to think of their estate plan as mid-range documents that are supposed to be relevant for 5 to 7 years. If they’re still relevant after that time great, however if family, lives and goals have changed so much that the documents have become irrelevant, it’s time to for a new plan.