Review your existing estate planning documents. If you already have an estate plan, review it to make sure it is still up to date and reflects your current wishes. This includes your will, trust, and any other estate planning documents.
Make necessary updates to your estate planning documents. If any of your life circumstances have changed since you created your estate plan, such as marriage, divorce, birth, or death, you may need to update your documents. You should also update your estate plan if there have been any changes in the law that could affect your estate.
Consider creating an estate plan if you don’t have one. If you don’t have an estate plan, the new year is a great time to create one. An estate plan can help you ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you die and that your loved ones are taken care of. Additionally, you should have a Healthcare Proxy, HIPAA Authorization, Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Directive. These foundational documents help facilitate your health care, as well as, your legal and financial needs should you be incapacitated.
Here is a more detailed checklist of items to consider when reviewing or updating your estate plan:
- Will: Your will is a legal document that states how you want your assets to be distributed after you die. If you don’t have a will, your assets will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession in your state.
- Trust: A trust is a legal arrangement that allows you to transfer ownership of your assets to a trustee, who will manage them according to your instructions. Trusts can be used for a variety of purposes, such as providing for minor children, protecting assets from creditors, and reducing estate taxes.
- Beneficiary designations: Beneficiary designations are instructions that you give to financial institutions and insurance companies about who should receive your assets after you die. Beneficiary designations are important because they override your will and trust.
- Durable Power of attorney: A durable power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes someone else to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
- Healthcare proxy: A healthcare proxy is a legal document that authorizes someone else to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
- Guardianship: If you have minor children, you will need to designate a guardian in your estate planning documents. The guardian will be responsible for raising your children if you and your spouse die before they reach the age of majority.
Once you have reviewed or updated your estate planning documents, it is important to store them in a safe place and let your loved ones know where they are located. You should also review your estate plan regularly to make sure it still meets your needs.
It is also a good idea to meet with an estate planning attorney to discuss your estate planning goals and to make sure that your estate plan is properly drafted and executed.