Because we are time-bound mortals, the change of seasons reminds us of changes in our lives and of their fragility. With the opening of each year comes a new opportunity to consider your estate plan and make sure it is up-to-date – or to make one if you don’t have on already!
Have you ever drafted documents at all? If not, you should know that the State’s choices on your behalf are not usually the best ones for you or your loved ones. That should not come as a surprise, but if you fail to plan, you have made the government’s decisions your own.
Can you find the originals of your documents? Could your family find them? If the originals of your documents cannot be found upon your incapacity or after your death, your well-laid plan will be for naught, and your affairs will proceed as if you had no plan – using the State’s plan, with all of its flaws.
If you have left your documents with your attorney, consider calling your attorney to be sure he or she still has them. You might decide to pick them up and store them yourself – attorneys close their practices and go out of business, change phone numbers and move their offices just like every other businessperson, and it would be more than just inconvenient if your documents couldn’t be located when you needed them most.
Have you reviewed your documents recently? Are your fiduciaries – the people you named to serve your loved ones and manage your assets in the event of a tragedy, your executor, trustee, agent under power of attorney or medical directive – still alive? Do you still know them? Like them? Would they still be willing to serve?
Are your beneficiary designations up-to-date on wills, trusts, insurance, and retirement assets? Do you know where to find your beneficiaries? Could your fiduciaries find your beneficiaries? It’s a shame to waste money trying to find people after the death of the only person who knew how to locate them. It’s an even greater shame to have money going to the wrong people when it’s too late to do anything about it.
Consider your choice of guardian for children or others under your care – disabled spouse, parents, dependent minor grandchildren. Are the persons you have named still the best for the situation? In this most crucial of areas of responsibility, be sure you have discharged it well.
Attorney Tim Barkley
The Tim Barkley Law Offices
One Park Avenue
P.O. Box 1136
Wills & Trusts | Estate Planning | Probates & Estates
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