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New Year's Resolution: Dust off that Estate Plan

Dust Off Estate Plan.pngBreeda K. O'Leary, Esq.

As the words from "Auld Lang Syne" echo in your head and you adjust to writing "2020," you should also use the New Year's Holiday as a reminder to dust off and review your Estate Plan. Here's a countdown of the six things that can you can do right now to ensure that your Estate Plan works for you:

6.  Update your Will/Trust. You likely hired an attorney twenty-five years ago to draft your will or trust, back when your kids were in elementary school and you needed to name a guardian, just in case anything ever happened to you. Now that your kids have kids, and your family and financial circumstances have changed - it's time you visit an estate planning attorney to ensure your will and trust meet your current needs.

5. Sign a new Durable Power of Attorney. This document enables someone to manage your financial and legal affairs should you become incapacitated, but are still alive. If your old Power of Attorney is outdated or not valid, an expensive Guardianship case through the probate court is the only other option (which is not fun).

4. Review your Beneficiary Designations. Have you been divorced? Are your kids now adults? Has a previous beneficiary died before you? Have you changed financial advisers? These are all situations that could trigger the need to update your beneficiary designations on all financial accounts. Leaving your ex-wife on your IRA may make your new wife angry. And, now that your kids are adults, you can name them as a beneficiary without the need to name Aunt Thelma as their conservator.

3. Update your Medical Power of Attorney. Do you want life-sustaining treatment? Who is going to make the decision whether to continue receiving medical treatment or switch to palliative care, should you not be able to make that decision for yourself? These are all very important questions that are addressed in this document. Don't let the court be the one making these decisions or appointing someone to make these decisions for you.

2. Make a List Distributing your Tangible Personal Property. Your great-grandmother's china and your great uncle's war medals hold more sentimental value than money or real estate. The sentimental nature of these possessions often causes relatives to fight over these items. Make a list in your own writing naming the relative to receive each item to avoid disagreements between them down the road.

1. Organize your Documents and Make Lists. You may know where all of your Estate Planning and financial documents are located within your home, but after you've passed away, your kids need to know where these things are located. I have had to reopen many probate estates because an heir located another financial account that they previously did not know existed. Create a list of all your assets and account logins to make the administration of your estate easier on those you love.

We can all acknowledge that most people give up on their New Year's resolutions during the first few weeks of the year. However, the great news about this list is that you can have an attorney or financial adviser do most of it for you. Call me at 248.380.9976 or email me at [email protected] so I can help you accomplish your New Year's resolution!

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