by Keith Kleinman
Estate planning should be an ongoing process that adapts to changed circumstances in your life. That’s why it is so important to periodically review the arrangements you have made for your estate. Consider the following questions in your review.
Has the size of my estate changed?
If you have enjoyed significant capital gains, received an inheritance, cashed out stock options or otherwise seen your net worth increase substantially, you may need to adjust some aspects of your estate plan. Adjustments may also be needed if the size of your estate has decreased significantly. A large change in the total value of your assets could affect their distribution, particularly if you have made specific bequests to individuals or charities rather than dividing your estate proportionally.
Do I have up-to-date documents?
A will is the cornerstone of estate planning. You should keep it current. Any births, deaths or divorces in your family should trigger a review of your will. Also, check to ensure that your beneficiary designations are up to date.
A durable power of attorney for health care, also known as a health care proxy, is a legal document that names a person who can make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make those decisions yourself. A living will is another contingency arrangement that specifies what type of medical care you will accept or refuse as it relates to life-sustaining treatments.
If you already have these documents in place, check to ensure the person you named in your health care proxy is still willing and able to serve and that your living will still expresses your wishes. If you don’t have these documents, give some thought to having them drawn up.
Am I confident my assets will be distributed exactly as I wish?
You may want to change your will if there have been deaths, births or divorces in your family. And you could also consider changing your will if you are worried about a loved one’s ability to handle an inheritance. For example, if you have concerns about a beneficiary’s maturity, you could delay or impose conditions on when that beneficiary would gain access to his or her inheritance by creating a trust in your will.
Are you still comfortable with your choice of trustee? Naming an experienced professional to serve as co-trustee or sole trustee of your estate can help ensure that your beneficiaries will be provided for according to your instructions.
Are my minor children protected?
If you have named a guardian for your minor children, check to ensure that person is still willing to serve in that role. And ask yourself if you still have confidence in your choice of guardian. A new job, added responsibilities or a move out of state may make your original choice no longer optimal.
In addition, it may make sense to keep the financial responsibilities of guardianship separate from the actual care of the minor children. You could choose a professional fiduciary to provide financial management on behalf of the minor children and name a family member to provide their actual day-to-day care.
Are my trusts funded?
It can happen – you may have created a trust but failed to complete the arrangement by transferring assets to the trust. If you have one or more living trusts, be sure to fund them.
Contact Keith Kleinman: Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, 270 Pierce Street, Kingston, PA, 18704; 570-283-8140; janney.com. Janney Montgomery Scott LLC is a member NYSE, FINRA, SIPC. Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, its affiliates, and its employees are not in the business of providing tax, regulatory, accounting or legal advice. These materials and any tax-related statements are not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used or relied upon, by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties. Any such taxpayer should seek advice based on the taxpayer’s particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor. Prepared by DST Systems, Inc. Copyright 2019.