Your Estate Plan May Be Worthless

WHAT!? Why? There are eight reasons why the estate plan you thought was fine may not ensure that your wishes are carried out.

1. Missing Parts of the Plan
You may be missing some critical parts of an effective estate plan. At a minimum, all clients should have a Will, financial power of attorney, and an advanced medical directive, that have been reviewed by an attorney within the last few years or after any major recent life event changes.
2. Outdated Information
You have not updated your beneficiaries or executors since you created the plan. We get it! Thinking about dying is depressing, but you have to if you want to make sure that your wishes are carried out. That means adding grandchild or removing beneficiaries who may have passed away. Certainly, you want to make sure the executor of your estate is someone you trust, able to serve and still alive and kicking.
3. Forgotten to Allocate Ownership of Valuables
You may have forgotten to include the ownership of jewelry, family heirlooms, paintings or even recently acquired valuable items in your estate plan. Not detailing who gets what is likely to end up with the family embroiled in a war on who gets ownership of your engagement ring or that Monet painting.
4. Neglected Life Insurance Beneficiaries and IRA’s
You may have forgotten to review your life insurance policies and IRA’s for years. What happens if you’ve divorced and remarried, but your old insurance policy names the first spouse as beneficiary? What happens if the policy hasn’t been funded properly and has lapsed? What if your beneficiary should not receive an outright distribution
5. Named a Family Member or Close Friend as Trustee
Naming someone you trust to be your executor or trustee is good idea, however, you must also make sure the person is aware of what the role requires and the fiduciary responsibilities it entails. We often see people named as executors or trustees who are unprepared to accept the role or are even incapable of carrying it out. You might consider appointing a third party, such as a Licensed Fiduciary or trust company to administer your estate. Yes it hurts to pay for this service, but you may save money and hurt feelings instead.
6. Tax Laws Have Changed
It should come as no surprise that tax laws change all the time. Estates created, but not amended to take these changes into account, can cause significant loss of wealth for your beneficiaries.
7. Passing Retirement Accounts to the Estate Rather Then to the Individual
There are significant benefits to passing on retirement savings through a beneficiary designation. Passing directly to a beneficiary avoids the probate process, which saves time and costs and beneficiaries are permitted to keep the majority of the assets in the tax-advantaged accounts.
8. You Moved to a New State
Every state has different laws for governing estate plans. If you move to a new state, it is critical you have an estate planning attorney review your documents to ensure you are in compliance with specific state laws.

In short, estate planning isn’t a one-time process. In general, you should review your estate plan after any major life event, or every few years to make sure your estate remains in compliance with local, state and federal law.

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