Getting people to focus on estate planning is one of the most difficult parts of the planning process. We all have great intentions but, unfortunately, one of the most important aspects of planning seems to fall to the back burner in many cases. And, once they are addressed, it brings peace of mind. After all, if you are going to spend a lifetime building and creating wealth, it is extremely important to ensure your estate is distributed the way you would like. It is equally important to cover situations in which you are unable to handle your affairs, both medically and financially.

Everyone feels better when they complete their estate documents. Typically, the set of documents are a Will, possibly a Revocable Trust, Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, and Living Will.  When was the last time you updated or even looked at your estate documents? Life changes and our documents need to reflect those changes.

  1. Is the person you selected as Executor or Successor Trustee or Power of Attorney still living and capable of handling your situation?
  2. Is the Executor, Successor Trustee, Power of Attorney, and family aware of the location of your documents and their potential responsibility?
  3. Have you had or adopted another child or lost a loved one?
  4. Do you feel the current guardian for your children still is suitable?
  5. Have your children reached majority and, if so, are they capable of handling your estate issues?
  6. Have your children or you moved? Proximity is important to handling medical issues and who you designate in that capacity.
  7. Have any of your beneficiaries passed away?
  8. Have any of your designated agents (Executor, Successor Trustee, Power of Attorney, Guardian) passed away?
  9. Has there been a change in marital status?
  10. Have you moved to a different state? The local laws can impact the transfer of wealth.
  11. If you named charities in your documents, do they still exist? Do you need to modify the percentages?
  12. Do you still feel comfortable with what type of care and sustenance you prefer?
  13. Have you purchased property or started a business?

Everyone is busy and, unfortunately, estate planning usually falls to the back burner. There is a sense of relief knowing that you have completed your estate documents. Just like financial planning, estate planning is not a one-time event. It requires periodic review to make sure the wealth you have worked so hard to accumulate is protected against contingencies and is ultimately distributed according to your wishes.

About the Author: Jan Kowal, CFP®

Jan’s passion for helping clients work towards their financial goals began almost 40 years ago. His planning is based on personal relationships and a true understanding of clients and their goals. Jan graduated from George Washington University with a BBA in Accounting and an MBA in Finance and Investments. He has been a Certified Financial Planner since 1984. Jan enjoys music, travel, cooking, and family time.

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