A Note From Paige
Happy New Year!
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are refreshed and ready for the New Year!
In November, I started a three-part series on estate planning that targets specific demographics. The first issue discussed estate planning for Millenials
. This month, I continue the series with a look at estate planning for adults in their 40s and 50s.
Getting Your Estate Plan to Grow Up--But Not Old--With You
Do you have an estate plan? If not, why not? Often, estate planning isn’t a priority for people; some people may not feel they need an estate plan because they don’t think they have a lot of assets to pass on to anyone. Or, they aren’t sure where to direct their assets or who to name as guardians over their children, so they procrastinate. Putting off an estate plan, however, is incredibly risky and can hurt your loved ones if you die without a plan in place.
If you do have an estate plan, when was the last time it was updated? Think back to when you first created your estate plan, and think about how much may have changed in your life since it was drafted. Did you get engaged? Married? Divorced? Have a child?
Your estate plan should grow with you.
Below are five tips to help your estate plan age as gracefully as you.
1. Update Your Estate Plan Regularly
If you first created your estate plan in your 20s or 30s, you may not have updated it since. Now is the time to review and update your estate plan--many people are starting off their New Year by adding this to their checklists. I recommend that my clients review their estate plans and meet with me every 2-3 years to make changes, unless a major life change has occurred that necessitates an immediate update.
2. Take Inventory of Your Assets and Accounts
Before you meet with your attorney to update your estate plan, look over the assets in your plan and account for them. Have you given anything away? For example, if you have given one of your children a cherished family heirloom, you should discuss removing it from your estate plan to avoid a conflict. You should also make a list of any new property that you’ll need to account for in your plan, such as property that you have inherited from a relative.
Review the list of beneficiaries on your life insurance and retirement accounts. If you have named someone who has died or from whom you are now divorced, or you’d like to name a child or grandchild but are concerned about their inheritance outright, discuss how to change your beneficiaries with your attorney. Your attorney can advise you on how to properly make these changes.
3. Ensure that Your Plan Conforms to Your Unique Circumstances
Families come in many shapes and sizes—the traditional nuclear family may not accurately represent you and your loved ones. Estate planning can be more complicated if you are in a blended family—for example, if you have children from a previous marriage, stepchildren, or both—so you need to make sure that your plan is specific and plainly makes your wishes known. If your estate plan is tailored to your family’s needs, it can prevent conflict between your heirs.
4. Discuss Your Estate Plan with Your Loved Ones
Let your loved ones know about your wishes in advance; that way, they won’t be surprised by what’s in your estate plan. You may want to take their wishes into account, too, especially if there is any property that they would like to have. Even if you don’t name one of your heirs as your executor, consider keeping at least one of your family members aware of your wishes and of where your estate plan can be found.
5. Keep Your Estate Plan Safe and Organized
Make sure that you keep all of the documents related to your estate plan together in a safe place. All of your original documents should be kept in a fireproof safe or a safe deposit box, and you should tell your attorney and/or executor where they can find them. If you have a safe deposit box, consider adding at least one other signatory to the box so that he or she can access the box after you are gone.
You should also create the following documents:
- A letter to your executor;
- A list of your digital assets;
- A list of all of your account numbers—include only the last 4 digits of the number;
- An inventory of your safe deposit box or fire proof safe; and
- A players’ list of individuals, their roles and contact information.
Creating an estate plan is a good first step, but it isn’t enough—you need to maintain and update it regularly to ensure that you provide for your loved ones. By updating regularly, discussing your plan with your loved ones, and staying organized, you can create an estate plan that will give you and your family peace of mind.
A basic estate plan comprises a Last Will and Testament, a Financial Power of Attorney and a Georgia Advance Healthcare Directive. It may also involve trusts or subtrusts. I can answer your questions about estate planning, and I can help you create or update an estate plan that is tailored to your specific needs. Please contact me
to schedule a consultation.