Part of my practice involves reviewing existing estate plans. Outright problems are fortunately rare, but unfortunately do exist. It is surprising how many plans I see that are woefully out of date, usually from changes in the client’s life, but occasionally with changes in the law. You should do these three simple things on a regular basis.
Review Regularly for Important Life Changes
Have there been any major changes in your family since your living trust was drafted? Take a look at the paragraphs dealing with beneficiaries (who will receive your property) and the paragraphs nominating the successor trustees (who will be in charge after you). Do they still match your current family situation and intent? If not you should consider amending your trust as soon as possible.
Make Sure Your Trust is Properly Funded
Your trust should have a schedule of assets that is very detailed. (If not, you have a problem!) As you change bank accounts, buy and sell real estate, open and close money market accounts, you should update your schedule of assets. You should also make sure these accounts are properly held in the trust. Your living trust only works as designed when it is properly funded. Fortunately, keeping it funded is relatively simple.
Keep Your Doctor and Bank In the Loop
Your Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive are important documents to protect you from the need for a conservatorship. But their proper home is not your binder. Copies of your Durable Power of Attorney need to go to your bank, and all of your financial institutions. The reason? It’s easy for an institution to act on a document they have in their records provided by you. It’s much harder for an institution to act on a document that is years old provided by a complete stranger to them. The same thing is true for your Advance Health Care Directive – all medical providers should have a copy provided by you. Your estate plan is more than a collection of papers prepared by your attorney years ago, it is a living expression of your intent. If you follow these three simple things you can ensure your intent is accurately reflected in your estate plan.