Estate planning is the best way to protect yourself, your family, business, and other assets. There is a real sense of security when these documents are in place. To those of you who have set up your estate plan, congratulations!
However, just because you have done your estate planning does not mean you are done. Remember, your life is fluid and ever changing, your estate plan is not! Your estate plan should be reviewed often to ensure it is keeping up with you and your family.
Here are 7 tips to get your estate plans in order:
- Knowing when to update your estate-planning documents
At minimum, we recommend you review your estate planning documents on your own every year to make sure your documents reflect your wishes. If you have documents prepared by an attorney, you may want to contact your attorney every 3-5 years to do a review of your documents. At Rose Elder Law LLC, we offer our clients a free 30-minute review every 3 years to ensure their documents remain relevant to their circumstances.
Knowing when you may need to change your estate planning documents is important. Major life events such as divorce, increase in assets, relocation, health problems, government regulations, newborn children, stepchildren, adopted child, minors, insurance policy, lack of trust towards beneficiaries, change in status or any other impromptu occurrence could necessitate a change.
- Should My Plan Be Oregon Specific?
Your documents regardless of where they were drafted should be legal in any other state. However, each state has its own laws and while your plan may have been excellent in the state it was drafted, it may be severely lacking in your state of residence. We often see new clients who have moved here from California. These folks are always surprised to learn that Oregon has an estate tax and their California trust does not help them to reduce this obligation. If they were to keep their California trust they could owe tens of thousands of dollars to the state of Oregon when they die.
If you relocated to Oregon and have documents from another state, we highly recommend you have your documents reviewed to ensure they provide you with the most protection.
- Discarding Old Documents
Spring cleaning is good therapy, however, be extremely careful when culling your estate planning files. Never mark on or discard old documents before meeting with an attorney. With the assistance of your attorney you should mark which files are current and remove any that may be outdated or mark them to avoid confusion.
- Review Your Asset Schedule
Changes in your assets may trigger a review of your estate planning documents. Today people now own digital assets such as domain names, cryptocurrencies, social media accounts, print on demand accounts, publishing accounts, passwords, cold wallets, stocks, and other online earning assets. If you have a revocable living trust, it is imperative that the assets are either titled in the name of your trust or that your beneficiary designations are up to date. New digital assets, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum may hold significant value. It is important for the owners to properly store these assets and give family access to these assets when the owner dies.
- Beneficiary Designations
It goes without saying that beneficiary designations are the most important part of an estate plan. We often see folks trying to rely solely on beneficiary designations to pass on their assets. Beneficiary designations such as Pay on Death or Transfer on Death are a great way to pass assets at your death while avoiding probate, when they work. The problem with these designations is they often do not provide any contingency planning; thus, when a beneficiary predeceases the owner, the asset may become a probate asset and/or go to someone the owner did not intend. Having a will or a trust in place is the best way to ensure that your wishes are met when you die. A will or trust can provide several levels of contingency planning in addition to protecting these assets in the event the beneficiary is a minor or a disabled individual.
If you rely on beneficiary designations to pass on your life insurance, retirement accounts, or other assets, we highly recommend you review your designations yearly.
- Advance Directive
Advance directives are crucial in the event of a medical emergency. Mental illness, dementia, stroke, and accidents are a few reasons to have your Advance Directive ready to go at a moment’s notice. Because the Oregon Advance Directive is a statutory document, it is “one-size-fits-all” and therefore available for free online or at your doctor’s office. In fact, you can get the most up-to-date version on our website here. (add link)
- Review the people you have named for important roles.
When you created your estate plan, the person you chose as executor was the right person for the job, but are they still? People and their circumstances can and do change often. Please consider whether the person you have named as executor or successor trustee are still the best choice. Have they filed for bankruptcy or been in any other financial difficulties? Did they get married or divorced and how has that impacted their life? What is their work life like? Do they have time to be your executor/trustee? Have they moved out of state or the country? Not only is it important that you have the utmost trust in the person you name, but they should also be able to do the job. Many people forget to consider the circumstances of the person they name and whether doing this work on your behalf would be overly burdensome. It is a good idea to speak with your nominated agent to make sure they can still do the job or if they would prefer someone else do it. You may want to review a list of their duties so they know what they are committing to do.
For more information attend one of our free Estate Planning 101 Webinars or call 971-865-3171 and schedule a consult.