As yet another year comes to an end it is time to revisit our estate plans to ensure that they are still current.  Your estate plan is an ever changing plan and not something that you prepare once in your life and then put it away with your other important papers to only be found by your heirs after your death.

Did you go through a divorce this past year? Did your family suffer a loss? Did you welcome a new member to your family? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you must update your estate plan to reflect your changed circumstances.

Perhaps the family dynamics have changed to where you wish to either add or remove a beneficiary or change your personal representative or your trustee.

When selecting a personal representative and/or a trustee, you should always consider if the person you are selecting is sufficiently sophisticated to carry out the job. Does the person have the time, resources and dedication to carry out the various tasks that are required of a personal representative and/or a trustee?

Once you think of your estate plan as an ongoing, ever-changing process rather than a one-time event it will be less emotional and traumatic for you to review your estate plan on a regular basis. Your estate plan reviews should become part of your yearly financial check-up. These regular reviews will ensure that your estate plan never becomes obsolete.

Since the property you own will change over time, these regular estate plan reviews will ensure that your will/trust remains accurate, current, transferring property at your death that you actually still own to the beneficiaries that are still living.

The following are just some of the things that you should consider during your regular estate plan reviews:

  • What do you want to happen at this time to your real property, your tangible personal property as well as your intangible personal property? Did you just buy an investment property or a vacation home? Perhaps you just sold your primary home and moved to an ALF. Did you downsize and in the process given away a majority of your tangible personal property? If that is the case, then your estate plan will have to be tweaked to reflect these changes.
  • You should also review your deed(s). How do you hold ownership of your real property(ies)? Do you own your real property(ies) individually or jointly with your spouse, significant other, siblings, parents or your children? Do these deed(s) still reflect your overall goal for your estate plan? Do you want to transfer your real property(ies) to your trust?
  • What about your other accounts? Do you have beneficiaries designated for these other accounts? Do you still want to keep these beneficiaries? Do you want to add a beneficiary? Are all your beneficiaries still alive? The death of your sole beneficiary of an account/policy will expose that account/policy to probate unless you take action now and update your beneficiary designations as needed.
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