Creating your estate plan is a big first step in protecting your assets and your loved ones. But that plan will only do some good if it’s kept up-to-date and your family knows where to find it.
Here’s a few tips to ensure that your estate plan is always working for you:
Keep it Updated – Today, you might own a home and two cars. You might have two children, both living on their own or off at college. But who’s to say when things might change? Your children could get married and have children of their own. You might buy a different house or decide to invest in a rental property.
The point is, life changes and when it does, your estate plan needs to change with it. If you don’t already have an estate planning attorney on speed dial, you should. A regular checkup with your attorney can ensure that your plan is always up-to-date. In addition to a regularly scheduled review, you should also contact your attorney immediately for major life events, such as births, deaths and new acquisitions.
Keep it Accessible – Locking your estate plan documents away in a lock box or safe deposit box is only a good idea if someone other than you can get to them. Make sure your family knows where all your documents are kept and that at least two of your family members have access to keys, pin codes, passwords and other necessary information. If your documents are stored in a safe deposit box, add those family members to the list of people with authorized access.
In addition to your estate planning documents, you should also gather up other related documents such as life insurance policies, retirement account statements and – and this is very important – your preferences for funeral arrangements and a list of friends and relatives you would want your family to contact. All to often, Mom or Dad knows how to get in touch with all the second cousins but the kids have no idea and unfortunately, by the time we realize we need this information, it’s too late.
Keep it Growing – A Will or Trust is a great start to an estate plan, but don’t stop there. Do you have Advanced Directives in place to protect you in the event of a disability? Documents such as a Durable Power of Attorney and a Living Will can make all the difference in the world when you’re no longer able to speak on your own behalf. Make some notes of your concerns and then ask your attorney about additional documents you might need during your next review session.