Have you experienced a significant life or financial change in the last year such as the purchase or sale of real estate, birth of a child, marriage, divorce or retirement? Then it’s time to revisit your estate planning goals and legal documents.
Important End of Year Estate Planning
Updating your legal documents each year is critical to ensuring your wishes, assets and family are protected. Implement these five end of year estate planning moves to ensure that you start the new year with a solid legal foundation in place.
Update Beneficiary Designations
Beneficiaries on your IRA, 401(k), life insurance policies, or retirement plans to go unchanged for years. You wouldn’t want to leave your inheritance to an ex-spouse or someone you no longer want to inherit from you. It is well worth the time to make a quick call to your Human Resources department or insurance agent to ensure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date.
Review your Will or Trust
Your legal documents are a map to make life easier for your loved ones if you die or become incapacitated. Keeping such documents valid and current is an important step to ensuring that map is accurate. Each year, review your will and trust for any mistakes, errors or necessary changes.
Refresh your Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives
Legal documents can actually go “stale” after a number of years. Banks, hospitals, and other financial institutions can reject Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives thathave “expired.” It’s a good idea to get into the habit of contacting your lawyer every December or January to refresh any documents that may be out of date.
Give a Trusted Individual Access to Your Safety Deposit Box
If you’ve stored your legal documents or other valuables in a safety deposit box, it’s important that someone can access these items in the event of your death or incapacity. Provide this person with an inventory of the boxes contents, and instructions on what to do with them.
Discuss Long-term Care with your Family
Accidents and illness are unpredictable and nursing home or assisted living can cost in upwards of $8,000-$12,000 per month. Medicare does not cover most long-term care costs, and Medicaid is need-based, unless you plan ahead. This is why discussing your goals with your family early on is important. Do you want to stay at home for as long as possible? Or are you more concerned about never a burden to your family? The best thing to do is proactively have these conversations with your family and financial professionals so that you have a rough plan in place to more easily access and pay for any care you may need.
Let This Be the Year You Take Action! Estate planning is an easy task to check off your “to-do” list. It’s a great idea to set aside some time to review all of your documents and policies, make updates, and, if necessary, meet with an attorney for the peace of mind of knowing that your legal ducks will be in a row before the New Year begins.