End of the Year Estate Planning Review (Questions to Ask)

Most Americans don't have an estate to plan forThis is the time of year when we begin to look toward the new year and make goals. Those goals often center around the following: exercise, eating healthy, weight-loss, reducing your debt, or just trying to be more mindful in daily life. Rarely do you see reviewing your estate plan or estate planning on this list.

Note, by estate planning, I mean your will and perhaps other documents.

There is a myth that “estate planning” is just for the highly affluent – Not so.  

Perhaps estate planning doesn’t rank on the new year list because the majority of Americans have no estate planning.  Yet, reviewing your estate plan should be an annual event and in fact, after the parties are over, January 1st of each year is a great time to review your plan.

What’s Next in the Estate Planning Process?

Okay, so the documents are out and being reviewed.  Clients then ask the question – When should I revise my estate plan?  Although most estate planning documents are revised about every three to five years, an annual review is necessary to ensure the documents reflect your wishes and to maintain your peace of mind.

I start with the following questions:

Do You Have an Existing Estate Plan?

  1. Do you have a will or other estate planning documents?

If the answer is no, the obvious answer is to schedule a consultation to discuss the preparation of a Will and perhaps other documents such as an Advance Directive (Living Will), Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, Guardian Declaration (Minor or Adult), HIPAA Authorization, or Burial Directive.

estate planning merits more thought

Most clients find that estate planning, like life, is more complicated and merits more thought than is provided by an online service that offers no professional advice.

Further, a relationship with an attorney can also provide substantial long-term benefits that a form service cannot.

If the answer is yes, then other questions should be answered:

 

Do You Need to Change Your Existing Estate Plan?

  1. Do you know where the documents are located?
  2. Does your executor know where the documents are located?
  3. Can your executor access the documents (i.e. are they on the bank box, know the safe combination, have the key)?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you probably need to schedule a meeting with a probate and estate planning attorney to review your unique situation.

Have any family or beneficiary changes occurred?changes in family or beneficiaries

  1. Any beneficiaries get married?
  2. Any beneficiaries die?
  3. Has any beneficiary become incapacitated?
  4. Do you have new beneficiaries? (births or adoptions)
  5. Any beneficiaries become estranged?
  6. Do you need to add a beneficiary?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you probably need to schedule a meeting with a probate and estate planning attorney to review your unique situation.

Have you reviewed your personal representative selections (Executors, Guardians, Trustees, or Custodians)?

  1. Do you still want these individuals to serve?
  2. Can these individuals still serve (i.e., do they have the time, are they incapacitated, do they qualify to serve)?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you probably need to schedule a meeting with a probate and estate planning attorney to review your unique situation.

Has your financial condition changed?

  1. Did you inherit assets?
  2. With the increase in the estate tax exemption do your estate planning documents need to be revised?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you probably need to schedule a meeting with a probate and estate planning attorney to review your unique situation.

If you own a business, has it been considered?

  1. Do you have a financial plan?
  2. Have your retirement assets been audited?
  3. Have your insurance policies been audited?
  4. Do you have an income tax plan?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you probably need to schedule a meeting with a probate and estate planning attorney to review your unique situation.

schedule a meeting with an attorney for your estate planning

Have you reviewed your assets for beneficiary designations or survivorship arrangements?

  1. Do you have beneficiaries on assets such as life insurance, IRAs, 401ks, 403bs?
  2. If so, do they match your estate plan?
  3. Do you have survivorship arrangements or bank accounts, investment accounts or even your home?
  4. If so, do they match your estate plan?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you probably need to schedule a meeting with a probate and estate planning attorney to review your unique situation.

Do you have marital agreements/divorce decrees that impact your estate plan?

If the answer to this question is yes, you probably need to schedule a meeting with a probate and estate planning attorney to review your unique situation.

  1. Do you want to avoid probate all together?
  2. If so, do you know about using a Revocable Management Trust (Living Trust)?
  3. Do you have other questions about your existing estate planning documents?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you probably need to schedule a meeting with a probate and estate planning attorney to review your unique situation.

Conclusion

Getting your estate planning in order for the new year is an excellent addition to your new year goals.  Therefore, you are well advised to seek the assistance of a Texas Estate Planning and Probate Attorney to help achieve your goals.

For questions please contact The Wright Firm, LLP – Board Certified Texas Estate Planning and Probate Attorney Paul F. Wright at (214) 780-9696 or paul@thewrightlawyers.com.

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