These legal documents can't just be put in a drawer and forgotten for years and years. They need to be tended to periodically, or else they may cause problems when you need them the most. Selecting an attorney and establishing your estate plan are the first steps to accomplished something important for you and your family, but you are not done yet.
Here’s what you need to do to maintain your estate plan
Review Asset Ownership
Your estate plan should take into account how you own your assets. You want your loved ones to have easy access to your assets in the event of an accident, incapacity or death. Depending upon your estate plan and your circumstances, perhaps your accounts should be owned jointly with a loved one.
The takeaway here is that your asset ownership plan is an integral part of the estate plan and there are multiple ways to set up your estate plan. This should be reviewed regularly as circumstances change often, you may always call to schedule a meeting via phone, zoom or in person if you are unsure what choices you have or may be right for your assets.
Check Your Beneficiary Designations
It’s always best to periodically check the beneficiary designations including retirement accounts,- like IRAs and 401(k)s – life insurance policies and annuities, to make sure they accurately reflect who you’d like to receive a particular asset upon your death. Incorrect beneficiary designations are a fairly common occurrence — and mistakes can be costly to fix after someone dies, if they are even possible to fix at all.
How Long Will Your Estate Plan Last?
Your estate plan will likely need to be updated at some point. An estate plan represents a snapshot of your life at the time you create the plan, in conjunction with applicable laws then in effect. As time marches on, changes in your life (or the law) can affect your estate plan. Therefore, it’s important to periodically review your estate plan to make sure it’s still appropriate. A good rule of thumb is to review your estate plan every five years or whenever you’ve had a major life or financial change.
What Happens if You Move to a Different State?
This is fairly common in Florida. The good news is that a valid document (such as a will, durable power of attorney, health care document or trust) in one state, is also a valid document in Florida. However, the particular document might not contain all of the necessary provisions in Florida, and therefore, the document might not work as well or as expected. Therefore, if you have moved to Florida, it’s always best to have your estate plan reviewed for possibly helpful or necessary updates.
Where Should You Keep Original Documents?
You should keep your original documents somewhere safe, yet accessible, like a locked safe in your home or perhaps with your attorney, if he or she is willing to hold on to it for you. Copies typically work that same way as an original. However, when someone passes, an original will still must be filed with the court. Although, with extra paperwork, time and effort, it’s usually possible to get a court to accept a copy of a will. Durable powers of attorney are really the exception to this trend. You often need an original power of attorney to be able to use it. So, mind your originals. That way you have them when you need them.
Who Should Have Copies?
In addition to your originals, you should have a fully executed copy of your estate plan (including a digital copy). While copies may have a more limited use than originals, they are important to have so that other family members know what their roles are when the time comes.
You’ve done the hard part, so don’t stop now. Periodically review your estate plan to make sure everything is still in order, and if not, call to schedule an appointment with Ledbetter Law Group
. A little routine maintenance will go a long way toward your goal of ensuring your loved ones are taken care of when you’re gone.