7 reasons to review your estate plan now

  1. You have no estate plan!  I cannot think of a reason why any adult should not have at least a Last Will and Testament, durable power of attorney, and advance directives (healthcare documents: living will [do you want artificial life support?] and healthcare power of attorney).  If you die or become incapacitated without having any of these documents, state law controls what will happen, not you (through your documents) or loved ones.  This could cause unnecessary and unexpected costs, delays, and loss of privacy.
  2. If any of these have occurred to you or, if married, to your spouse: marriage, death, birth, divorce, second marriage. These occurrences call for a review of your estate plan.  Not reviewing your will and/or trust after any of these events could lead to unintended beneficiaries or fiduciaries.
  3. Speaking of fiduciaries…review the people you designate as fiduciaries in your documents, such as executor of your will, trustee of your trust, guardian of your children, agent in your powers of attorney, to name a few. Are they still alive?  Are they still capable of serving?  Do you still want them to serve?
  4. Review your beneficiaries. Review who you listed to inherit from you.  Are they still alive?  Do you still want to bequeath to them, or add additional beneficiaries?  You should definitely review life insurance and retirement plans and other assets that have beneficiary designations, since the person you name on such a designation will inherit regardless of what your estate plan states.
  5. Your current plan is more than a decade old. There have been many tax and other changes that could affect older plans, but a major change with my practice is that my clients now plan for their “digital assets.”  What happens to your pictures on Shutterfly, or your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts?  What happens to money in your etsy or ebay store’s PayPal account?  Do you want your spouse to have access to your Facebook account at your death?  Or your emails?  These “assets” should be reviewed, and you should consider what you want to happen to them at your death.
  6. Trust funding. There have been so many people who have created a trust plan but did not fund the trust, which meant at death the trust was useless.  You must fund a trust, which means you put assets into the trust—typically by re-titling or deeding assets from you personally, to you as trustee of your trust.  You can fund while living, or set it up so that this funding occurs at your death.
  7. Beneficiary becomes disabled. If a beneficiary has become disabled, or you wish to provide for a beneficiary who is disabled, then it is paramount that you discuss special needs planning, such as a special needs trust, with your attorney.  Leaving assets directly to a disabled beneficiary could jeopardize certain benefits they might receive, such as Medicaid.

If you would like to discuss your estate plan, contact me at julie@juliemillslaw.com.

Advertisements

Terminal condition. Permanently unconscious state.

No one wants to think about being gravely injured in an accident, or having a terminal illness.  If you have definitive thoughts about being kept alive–or not–on artificial life support, then you should plan for what you want done or not done should you become in a “terminal condition” or “permanently unconscious state” using a living will and a healthcare power of attorney.

Karen Ann Quinlan and Terri Schiavo were both women who fell into comas after differing medical events.  Both were put on artificial life support and received nutrition (feeding tube) and hydration.  Despite efforts from family members to remove artificial life support, both women lived for 10 years in a persistent vegetative state.  As with many people, neither woman put any end-of-life wishes in writing.

The stories of Quinlan and Schiavo scare people who fear living for years in a coma, kept alive by machines.  To make it known that you would not want to be kept alive artificially, you need to prepare a living will, which memorializes your end-of-life decisions in writing.  A healthcare power of attorney accompanies a living will, and provides for you to name an agent for making healthcare decisions for you.  This “agent” can make medical decisions if you are unable to make them yourself, but cannot override your end-of-life wishes in your living will.

A living will document makes your end-of-life healthcare wishes known.  A healthcare power of attorney names an agent (you choose) to enforce your living will and make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so.  These documents should be a part of your estate plan, and should be freely to distributed to the people you name, doctors, and hospitals.