One thing you can count on at the beginning of every new year is lots of lists. The best list, the worst list, “my New Year’s resolutions list,” and it goes on and on. Amy Grant has a beautiful holiday song known as “My Grown-Up Christmas List,” and in that spirit, we thought it might be helpful to have your very own “Grown-Up Estate Planning List.”
So, what are the items you should think about, check on, modify, and/or review from your Grown-Up Estate Planning List every year?
Six Questions to Ask About Your Estate Plan Every Year
Here are six things you should review and consider every year:
1. Is Your Estate Plan Completely Done?
I’m not sure there is a way to say this any more direct — if you don’t take the time to do your own estate plan, then the generic laws of your state will apply to your family upon your passing. And most people don’t want this to happen. “We’ll see you in Probate” almost always applies when somebody doesn’t take the time to create their own estate plan. And if you want to know what happens in Probate, then read this article on our blog.
Only YOU can decide what is best for you and your family. It is not complicated, so just get it done. If you need some motivation, read “Why Should I Create an Estate Plan?” on our website.
2. What Has Changed in Your Life?
This generally refers to all the people involved as part of your plan.
- Has a beneficiary changed in your estate plan?
- Did an individual that you were counting on with your estate plan become “too old,” or did they pass away?
- Is one of your Power of Attorney Agents no longer as reliable as you thought, and is it time to recalibrate on that choice?
- Did the kids get older and more/less mature?
- Does that change your distribution plan in your estate plan?
- Are there new grandchildren, or other beneficiaries you want to include or exclude in your estate plan?
Every year we need to review key people, or other critical changes (like marriages or divorce) in our lives and answer the question of how those changes impact your own estate plan.
3. What Laws Have Changed Significantly?
Usually this is not a major concern, but occasionally it can be a significant item. The laws are constantly changing, but a law change does not always impact your estate plan. Or, if it does, it may be very minor. On the other hand, sometimes the law changes are very significant. For instance, The SECURE Act, passed in December 2019, was one such big change, and it probably impacts just about every client in some way. We shared details on this in early 2020, but you can read or review it here. We fully expect new tax law modifications with the change of administration, so stay tuned for any significant changes there. We try to provide guidance when big changes happen and are open to reviewing how these changes impact your plan.
4. Are Your Financial Assets Properly Aligned With Your Estate Plan?
We normally call this “trust funding” — when a trust is involved in the estate plan — but regardless of the type of estate plan you may have, your assets MUST be aligned with the plan.
In the case of a trust plan, this means how is this individual asset going to get into the trust now, or in the future? Additionally, how can someone get to this individual asset for me if I ever become mentally disabled? Usually this involves ownership changes on the asset and/or beneficiary changes with the asset. If nothing is done, then the asset will typically fall into the probate estate of the deceased person and the Pour-Over Will gathers the assets in probate and brings them to the trust. But, why would you ever want to go through probate if you can stay out of probate by properly aligning your assets with your estate plan?
In a will-based plan, all the payable-on-death (POD) and transfer-on-death (TOD) beneficiaries must be constantly reviewed to be sure nothing has changed. Like paying taxes, every year clients should review their assets to be sure their assets are properly aligned with their estate plan.
5. Are Your Beneficiary Designations Updated?
You don’t want to know how many times a client thinks they made a beneficiary change, but never really got it done. It might sound redundant, but every year clients should review their beneficiary designations to be sure what they thought was done is actually done. This might sound simple, but sometimes the simple things cause the most pain. Please, please confirm all beneficiary designations with your financial accounts. Read more on that here.
6. Is Your Business Succession Plan Aligned With Your Estate Plan?
For the business owner, there needs to be a continual recalibration of how their business plan works with the estate plan. For starters, is the business entity aligned with the estate plan at all?
There are so many businesses completely unattached to their owner’s estate plan. If there is a succession plan (which is rare), does it work together with the estate plan or are the two plans disjointed in some way?
Small business owners really need to be sure their plan works with their estate plan, and at least annually they should confirm any new changes. This topic is so important, we frequently write about it. Check out our past articles here.
Be Sure to Review These Six Things
If you can answer these questions every year with some detail, then you should feel better about your Grown-Up Estate Planning List:
1. Is your estate plan completely DONE?
2. What has changed in your LIFE in the last year?
3. What LAWS have changed significantly?
4. Are your financial ASSETS properly ALIGNED with your estate plan?
5. Are your BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS updated?
6. Is your BUSINESS SUCCESSION plan aligned with your estate plan?
If you ever want to review any of these items with us, give us a call. We will be fair to you and ourselves with regards to time and fees.
Our goal is to provide you peace of mind through your estate planning.
Best of luck with those New Year’s Resolutions, and I hope you’ll take a look at this list for your estate plan in the new year.
If we can be of assistance, give us a call at (913) 345-2323. We will work with you to complete your plans so that your wishes are clear and your family benefits in the future.