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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it’s imperative that you have a basic estate plan in place. At a minimum, you will need a will (or trust) and the requisite powers of attorney. Admittedly, you can never really be truly ready when a loved one passes away or your life changes dramatically, but you can at least try to be legally prepared.
In the YouTube link below, “It Could Happen To You,” Shane Bitney Crone shares his experience dealing with the aftermath of his partner’s (Tom Bridegroom) passing. Despite the fact that Shane and Tom had been together for many years, because there was no will in place, Tom’s estranged family had legal control of his possessions and body. This also gave them the authority to bar Shane from Tom’s funeral. In response, Shane created this video as a warning to others and to demonstrate the importance of creating a will and looking out for those you love.
While I understand people have differing views on same-sex relationships, the decision to include this video in my newsletter does not stem from a desire to have a discussion that some might find polarizing. Regardless of your sexual orientation, living situation or belief system, we all have certain people in our lives we want to look after when we pass, some who are not related by marriage or blood. Unless there is proper legal documentation – ideally prepared by an attorney who understands the intricacies of your individual situation and your state’s laws – the courts will decide who receives your estate. Are you comfortable with that?
To those of you who already have an estate plan in place, when was the last time it was reviewed and updated? Any time there is a life-changing event (marriage, birth, adoption, death, financial change or business-related changes), it’s important to take another look at your will or trust. Depending on the "triggering event" and the adjustments needed, you can handle this in a variety of ways. For a trust, an amendment might be all that is needed. Or it might be necessary to create a codicil. A codicil is an amendment to an existing will that allows you to make updates on an as-needed basis without rewriting the entire document. It can be a quick and cost effective way to keep your affairs in order in the manner you choose. Or, ultimately, it might be necessary to create an entirely new will or trust too. It is always best to contact a professional when you want to make changes, as you should never make handwritten changes to your document(s). A professional can advise you on the best way to ensure your wishes are documented properly
So tell me, when was the last time you updated your estate plan? Is it time to give it a fresh look?