Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Year - Resolve to Review your Estate Planning

Today we reprise a New Year's blog from 2015 because we feel that it is important that planners and clients add a commitment to review and update their estate planning to their list of New Year's resolutions.
The importance of this resolution really struck home with me when I reviewed my own estate planning on New Year's Day and realized there were changes I wanted to make even though the most recent revision had occurred less than two years ago.
Our message from that 2015 blog continues to be relevant:
"While we all have full lives that often get in the way of planning, the beginning of a new year is a great time for our clients, friends, and me, to make a resolution to review or consider estate planning.   It is particularly important to: 
1.    Review estate planning documents especially if they have not been updated in the last two or three years. If you have no documents, it is time to consider getting them. Pay special attention should be paid to:
a.    Guardians named to care for minors in the event both parents pass away. If you have previously named guardians, are these still the people you trust?
b.    Distribution provisions for children and grandchildren --when should they receive money and how much?
c.    People named to act as trustees and personal representatives after your death to protect your children and other loved ones. Are those people you named to administer your trust and estate still the ones you want to accept that responsibility?
d.    People named to make legal and medical decisions under your Durable Power Of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designation, in the event you become incapacitated. If you have previously named people, are they still able, and willing, to make these decisions on your behalf?
2.    Review how you titled your assets to confirm you can avoid the high cost, time delays and public exposure of probate under Michigan law at your death.
3.    Inventory your assets, so that a complete list is available for your administrators in the event of a sudden death.
4.    Consider making a list of personal property designations, so that items you value can go to the desired beneficiaries.
5.    Consider making a list of important people and contact information, such as your attorney, accountant, financial planner, or investment advisor, to save your family time and aggravation.
6.    If you have any particular desires, write a letter indicating your personal burial preferences, so your loved ones will know how to handle arrangements at your death.
7.    Consider starting Section 529 education accounts for your children or grandchildren so the funds can grow tax-deferred, and be distributed tax-free, to the extent they are used for higher education.
8.    For those of you with unmarried children over the age of 18, encourage them to execute their own patient advocate designations and durable powers of attorney so that if something were to happen to them, decisions can be made without involving the probate court.
Like all of our other resolutions, these may be hard to keep but, if completed, can provide us peace of mind that if the unexpected occurs, our loved ones will be prepared to deal with whatever comes their way."

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