Spring Cleaning: Time to Review Your Estate Plan
Adapted by Jennifer B. Cona
Written April 6, 2022
Spring is a great time to review your estate plan. Here is a checklist to help you review your estate planning documents.
Check the Last Time You Updated Your Estate Plan
An estate plan should be periodically reviewed to make sure it is up to date, typically every five years or sooner if there is a major life event. Major life changes that might your estate plan include births, deaths, divorce, substantial changes in your assets or holdings, major changes to your health or your health care needs, or similar changes in the lives of your beneficiaries.
Do You Need to Update Your Will or Prepare One?
It is essential that everyone has a Last Will and Testament, which is a legal document that directs the disposition of your estate after your death. If you pass away without a Will, your estate will be distributed under the default intestacy rules in Alabama. For example, if you were survived by a spouse and children, the first $50,000 passes to your spouse, and the remainder is divided half to your spouse and half to your children, including minor children. Many people would instead prefer their assets to pass all to their spouse. If you do not have a spouse or children, generally your estate would pass to your closest living relatives (parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins, etc.). This may not be who you want to inherit from you. That is why it is important for everyone to have a Will that reflects their wishes and why a Will is the cornerstone of estate planning documents.
Do you know how valuable a trust is?
A trust will also allow you control both through handling of your assets during lifetime and after your death.
Review Your Current Beneficiaries
Over time, your desired beneficiaries may change. This applies to your Will and your Trust as well as the beneficiaries you designate directly on certain financial assets such as retirement plans, IRAs, 401(k)s, annuities, and life insurance. A marriage or divorce can certainly influence who you would like to inherit your assets and may require adding or removing a spouse as a beneficiary.
Keeping Your Estate Planning Documents in a Safe Place
Your loved ones will need to access your estate planning documents (such as a Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and Living Will) in an emergency, so you should make sure you keep your documents in a safe place (a locked drawer or cabinet) but not in a safe deposit box.