When you think about New Year’s resolutions, consider a check up on your legal well-being. Whether you’ve completed your estate plan last year or ten years ago (or have no estate plan), the beginning of a new year is a good time to review your current situation and any recent events which may require updating or initiating your estate plan. Some points to consider:
Locate the documents: make sure you and your designated executor/executrix and beneficiaries know where your original documents are—if we drafted your documents, in all likelihood, your originals will be in our safe.
Updating beneficiaries: make sure your beneficiaries are current with up to date names and addresses. As situations and needs change, you may want to review and update the beneficiaries of life insurance policies, annuities, and retirement accounts. It is important to note that assets with beneficiaries generally do not pass through a will.
Updating specific bequests: if your estate documents contain specific bequests, they should be reviewed to ensure you still own the property to be transferred and you still want that individual to receive the property.
Reviewing healthcare documents: living wills and health care powers of attorney allow you to appoint individuals to make healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated. If you have such documents, you should review who is designated and verify you have an alternative, should the first person be unavailable.
Reviewing financial durable powers of attorney: An individual appointed as your durable power of attorney can handle your financial and legal matters. As with healthcare documents, it is important to designate an alternate person if the first is unavailable.
Reviewing safety deposit box: If you have a safety deposit box, you should review who has authority to access the box. Access to the box is controlled by documents signed by the boxholder with the bank. Failure to have alternate signatories can result in the necessity for a court order to access the safety deposit box—also known as “drilling the box.”
For assistance with these issues and other estate planning needs, please contact us.