If you are like most adults, you have not yet crafted an estate plan. If this is the case, consider tackling this effort as a New Year’s resolution. It’s a necessary undertaking that can help to protect your interests and safeguard your legacy should something go terribly wrong this year.
But, if you’re ahead of your peers in this regard, as the calendar turns to a new year, it’s an ideal time to review your existing estate plan. Making this effort can help to ensure that your current wishes and estate planning documentation align.
What should you do when reviewing your estate plan?
Your asset distribution may have been perfect when you first drafted your estate plan, but over time, your financial situation could have changed. Review your assets, including investments, property and personal possessions, to ensure they align with your current wishes. If there have been significant changes in your asset value or type, adjustments might be necessary.
Life events such as marriages, divorces, births and deaths can alter your relationships and priorities. Ensure that your beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, life insurance policies and your will and/or trust(s) reflect your current intentions. Neglecting this can lead to unintended beneficiaries receiving assets and intended beneficiaries receiving nothing.
You’ll additionally want to reassess the individuals you’ve designated as executors, trustees or powers of attorney. Are they still the best choices to manage your affairs? Changes in relationships, health or location of these individuals could impact their ability to serve effectively. Similarly, make sure that your healthcare directives and living will reflect your current health status and end-of-life wishes, as your needs may have changed since your last review.
Reviewing your estate plan as the new year begins is more than a routine checkup; it’s a way to better ensure that your personal and financial wishes are accurately documented and legally sound. It may not be the most fun way to start out the new year, but it’s a responsible and potentially consequential approach that could significantly impact your interests down the line.